Backsliding by Surprise: The Rise of Chavismo
43 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2021 Last revised: 18 Apr 2022
Date Written: March 22, 2021
How do elected autocrats come to power? Prominent explanations point to distributive conflict. We propose instead that some candidates advertise democratic deconsolidation as “deepening democracy,” which can have crosscutting appeal. We evaluate this proposal through the election of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, an emblematic elected 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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