Backsliding by Surprise: The Rise of Chavismo
35 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2021
Date Written: March 22, 2021
How do aspiring autocrats get elected? Prominent explanations point to distributive conflict. We propose instead that skillful rhetoricians initially disguise democratic deconsolidation as “deepening democracy,” which has crosscutting appeal. We investigate the election of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, an emblematic aspiring autocrat. Using original data, we find that historical voting patterns and political rhetoric are consistent with our proposal: Chávez came to power with the cross-class support of voters from across the traditional political spectrum, and his campaign emphasized rather than obscured his plan to remake political institutions.
Keywords: Backsliding, deconsolidation, democracy, Venezuela, Chávez
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