Incumbency Advantage in Non-Democracies

44 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2014  

Georgy Egorov

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management; NBER

Konstantin Sonin

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies; Higher School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Date Written: September 17, 2014

Abstract

In elections that take place in a less-than-perfect democracy, incumbency advantages are different from those in mature democracies. The incumbent can prevent credible challengers from running, organize vote fraud, or even physically eliminate the main opponents. At the same time, formally winning the election does not guarantee staying in power. We present a unified model of elections and mass protests, where the purpose of competitive elections is to reveal information about the relative popularity of the incumbent and the opposition. Citizens are heterogenous in their attitudes toward the dictator and these individual preferences serve as private signals about the aggregate distribution of preferences; this ensures a unique equilibrium for any information the incumbent may reveal. We show that the most competent/popular dictators run in competitive elections, mediocre ones prevent credible opponents from running or cancel elections, and the least competent ones use outright repressions. A strong opposition makes competitive elections more likely, but also increases the probability of repression. A totalitarian regime, where repression is cheaper, will have more repression, but even in the absence of repression, competitive elections will be rarer. A crueler, say military, regime, where protesting is costly, makes repression less likely and, surprisingly, competitive elections more likely.

Keywords: non-democratic politics, dictatorship, elections, fraud, protests, revolutions, signaling

JEL Classification: H00, D72, D82

Suggested Citation

Egorov, Georgy and Sonin, Konstantin, Incumbency Advantage in Non-Democracies (September 17, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2497277 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2497277

Georgy Egorov

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Konstantin Sonin (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Higher School of Economics ( email )

20 Myasnitskaya street
Moscow, 119017
Russia

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

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