Suicide by Competition? Authoritarian Institutional Adaptation and Regime Fragility

44 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2016

See all articles by Michael Bernhard

Michael Bernhard

University of Florida

Amanda Edgell

University of Florida, Department of Political Science

Staffan I. Lindberg

Göteborg University - Varieties of Democracy Institute; Göteborg University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: October 1, 2016

Abstract

While it is clear that contemporary authoritarian incumbents use democratic emulation as a strategy in the hopes of stabilizing and extending their tenure in power, this does not mean it is always effective. Indeed, an extant literature presents strong evidence that the opening of the pursuit of power to electoral competition can make authoritarianism vulnerable. Unless it is mediated by other factors, democratic emulation by authoritarian incumbents cannot simultaneously both stabilize their rule and make it more vulnerable to democratic transitions. These two literatures leave us with a set of contradictory generalizations. Some scholars argue that reiterated multiparty competitive elections present a gradual path from authoritarianism to democracy. Can they at the same time be a source of authoritarian stability? In this paper we seek to resolve this paradox by employing a unique combination of event history modeling to assess how experiences with multiparty elections influence patterns of authoritarian survival and transition in 108 countries from 1946-2010. Our results suggest that while authoritarian regimes face increasing odds of failure during the first three iterated multiparty and competitive election cycles, subsequent iterated cycles are far less dangerous to their survival. Given that few authoritarian regimes survive past three elections, these findings should be seen as more supportive of the democratization by elections thesis than democratic emulation as a way to enhance authoritarian survival.

Suggested Citation

Bernhard, Michael and Edgell, Amanda and Lindberg, Staffan I., Suicide by Competition? Authoritarian Institutional Adaptation and Regime Fragility (October 1, 2016). V-Dem Working Paper 2016:37. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2851432 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2851432

Michael Bernhard (Contact Author)

University of Florida ( email )

Amanda Edgell

University of Florida, Department of Political Science ( email )

PO Box 117325
Gainesville, FL 32611-7325
United States

Staffan I. Lindberg

Göteborg University - Varieties of Democracy Institute ( email )

Sprängkullsgatan 19
Gothenburg, Gothenburg 405 30
Sweden

HOME PAGE: http://www.pol.gu.se/varianter-pa-demokrati--v-dem-/

Göteborg University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 711
Gothenburg, S-405 30
Sweden

HOME PAGE: http://www.pol.gu.se

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