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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Tanaka, Seiki, Aging Gracefully? Why Old Autocrats Hold Competitive Elections (July 27, 2017). Asian Journal of Comparative Politics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3015181

Seiki Tanaka (Contact Author)

University of Leeds ( email )

School of Politics and International Studies
Leeds, LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

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