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

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Abstract

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). ...
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