Information Aggregation and Electoral Autocracies: An Information-Based Theory of Authoritarian Leaders' Use of Elections

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The paper develops an information-based theory of elections under authoritarian regimes. The paper shows first, that dictators' information problems lead them to either underestimate the political power of their challengers, thereby risking a coup, or overestimate this power, thereby wasting valuable resources in an attempt to appease their opposition. Second, that under conditions of information asymmetry between authoritarian leaders and potential opposition members, these leaders can use elections as an information gathering mechanism. The paper provides evidence in support of this theory, using data from 80 authoritarian regimes during 1952-1990. The analysis employs appropriate statistical methods in order to overcome endogeneity and framing problems that have impeded previous empirical research on electoral autocracies.

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... One of the central findings in the recent literature on authoritarian stability is that party-based regimes tend to be the most stable form of dictatorship. In their review article on one-party rule, Magaloni and Kricheli (2010) note that 'compared to other types of dictatorships, one-party regimes last longer (Geddes 2003;Huntington 1968;Magaloni 2008), suffer fewer coups (Cox 2008;Geddes 2008;Kricheli 2008), have better counterinsurgency capacities (Keefer 2008), and enjoy higher economic growth (Gandhi 2008;Gehlbach and Keefer 2011;Gehlbach and Keefer 2012;Keefer 2007;Wright 2008)' (124). ...
A key finding in the literature on authoritarian regimes is that leaders frequently rely on ruling parties to stay in power, but the field lacks systematic ways to measure autocratic party strength. As a result, it is not clear how often ruling parties are actually strong and capable of carrying out important functions. This article demonstrates that strong ruling parties are much rarer than is typically assumed. Using a global sample of dictatorships from 1946–2008, the author shows that most ruling parties are unable to survive the death or departure of the founding leader. This is true even of many ruling parties that have been coded as leading single-party regimes. While strong parties may be key to durable authoritarianism, relatively few parties are truly strong.
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In this article, we investigate how the political geography of local power and national-subnational alignment influences the distribution of conflict between election contests. We ask how consistently local intermediaries, such as members of parliament (MPs), can sustain their own support and that of their successful national candidate. The best measure for the ability of local elites to generate and keep support is candidate vote margins. These election results recast elites and areas as core, swing or costly regime investments, which in turn influences the streams of patronage and authority between election cycles. Based on the political geographies that result from subnational election data for 13 African countries, we find that in core areas where support for the leader is high, there is limited violence by state forces; state violence is significantly higher in areas costly to the national leader; and violence by non-state armed actors (e.g. militias) is most likely to occur in swing areas where the winning margin of the last legislative election is narrow for the local candidate. It is in these swing regions that competing political elites engage in violence to replace poorly performing local intermediaries.
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