Authoritarian Elections and Leadership Succession, 1975-2004

45 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 21 Aug 2009

Date Written: 2009


Why do non-democratic regimes hold elections they might lose? In this paper, I develop a model in which authoritarian rulers agree to positive levels of electoral risk primarily to gain information that reduces the risk of their violent removal from office via a coup d’etat or revolution. Using a comprehensive database documenting how the world’s leaders exited from office, I provide evidence that elections help authoritarian regimes regulate succession to their top posts. There is evidence of both regime effects (e.g., leaders of multi-party authoritarian regimes are more likely to exit electorally and less likely to exit violently) and electoral-cycle effects (violent and peaceful exits vary systematically across the electoral cycle in multi-party regimes).

Keywords: authoritarian elections, leadership succession

Suggested Citation

Cox, Gary W., Authoritarian Elections and Leadership Succession, 1975-2004 (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Gary W. Cox (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States
650-723-4278 (Phone)