Aging Gracefully? Why Old Autocrats Hold Competitive Elections
Asian Journal of Comparative Politics, Forthcoming
38 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2017
Date Written: July 27, 2017
This paper examines the conditions under which dictators hold competitive elections, and looks specifically at the role played by a dictator’s age. Drawing on previous studies arguing that uncertainty increases the likelihood of competitive elections, I argue that as a dictator ages, uncertainty over the future increases within the regime, because government insiders’ expected payoffs for supporting the incumbent decline as he ages. As a result, I argue that older dictators are more likely to hold competitive elections in order to reduce the uncertainty. The paper also tests an implication of the argument: if uncertainty over the future drives elections, then it should be mitigated in regimes with a clear successor. Using a large-N, cross-national dataset on autocrats and competitive elections between 1960 and 2012, this paper examines the argument and finds that as dictators age, they are more likely to hold competitive elections, all else equal. The analysis also finds that the effect of autocrats’ age on competitive elections is mitigated in dominant party regimes where there exists an established succession rule, while the effect is more apparent in personalist regimes without such a system.
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