When Democracy has a Fever: States of Emergency As a Symptom and Accelerator of Autocratization
30 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2019 Last revised: 28 Apr 2019
Date Written: March 1, 2019
States of emergency grant chief executives the power to circumvent democratic constraints in order to combat existential threats. As such they are ideal tools to erode democratic institutions while maintaining the illusion of constitutional legitimacy. Therefore, it seems plausible that states of emergency are associated with a heightened risk of autocratization a decline in a regime's democratic attributes. Despite this link and the contemporary relevance of both autocratization and states of emergency, no prior study has empirically tested this relationship. This paper fills this gap using data on 60 democracies for 1974 to 2016. We find that democracies are 59% more likely to erode under a state of emergency. Like a fever, states of emergency are a potential symptom of a seriously ill democracy and they may accelerate democratic decay.
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