How Former Authoritarian Elite Spread Across Government Impacts the Quality of Democracy
55 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2019
Date Written: October 15, 2019
When authoritarian-era elites return to positions of power under democracy, what are the implications for the quality of democracy? We investigate this question in this paper using an original dataset that tracks former authoritarian elites’ capture of high-level posts under democracy across Latin America from 1900 to 2015. We find that when authoritarian-era elites capture a wide range of posts across disparate government branches, such “elite dispersion” undercuts not only the overall quality of democracy but also specific dimensions of democracy such as accountability, openness of competition, breadth of inclusion, and egalitarianism. These results are robust to prominent alternative explanations of the quality of democracy – in particular, explanations that underscore the importance of formal organizations and institutions such as autonomous militaries, dominant political parties, and holdover autocratic constitutions. Elite dispersion matters for the quality of democracy even after controlling for these more visible channels of former authoritarian elite influence.
Keywords: authoritarianism, democracy, elites
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