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Incumbency Advantage in Non-Democracies

Listed author(s):
  • Egorov, Georgy
  • Sonin, Konstantin

In elections that take place in a less-than-perfect democracy, incumbency advantages are different from those in mature democracies. The incumbent can prevent credible challengers from running, organize vote fraud, or even physically eliminate the main opponents. At the same time, formally winning the election does not guarantee staying in power. We present a unified model of elections and mass protests, where the purpose of competitive elections is to reveal information about the relative popularity of the incumbent and the opposition. Citizens are heterogenous in their attitudes toward the dictator and these individual preferences serve as private signals about the aggregate distribution of preferences; this ensures a unique equilibrium for any information the incumbent may reveal. We show that the most competent/popular dictators run in competitive elections, mediocre ones prevent credible opponents from running or cancel elections, and the least competent ones use outright repressions. A strong opposition makes competitive elections more likely, but also increases the probability of repression. A totalitarian regime, where repression is cheaper, will have more repression, but even in the absence of repression, competitive elections will be rarer. A crueler, say military, regime, where protesting is costly, makes repression less likely and, surprisingly, competitive elections more likely.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 10178.

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Date of creation: Sep 2014
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10178
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  1. Boix, Carles & Svolik, Milan, 2009. "The Foundations of Limited Authoritarian Government: Institutions and Power-Sharing in Dictatorships," Papers 10-21-2009b, Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy.
  2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:103:y:2009:i:02:p:175-192_09 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2011. "Dictators And Their Viziers: Endogenizing The Loyalty–Competence Trade‐Off," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(5), pages 903-930, October.
  4. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2009. "Democratic Capital: The Nexus of Political and Economic Change," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 88-126, July.
  5. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2008. "Coalition Formation in Non-Democracies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 987-1009.
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  11. Londregan, John & Vindigni, Andrea, 2006. "Voting as a Credible Threat," Papers 10-04-2006, Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy.
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  13. Scott Ashworth, 2005. "Reputational Dynamics and Political Careers," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(2), pages 441-466, October.
  14. Lorentzen, Peter L., 2013. "Regularizing Rioting: Permitting Public Protest in an Authoritarian Regime," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 8(2), pages 127-158, February.
  15. Gehlbach, Scott & Keefer, Philip, 2011. "Investment without democracy: Ruling-party institutionalization and credible commitment in autocracies," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 123-139, June.
  16. James D. Fearon, 2011. "Self-Enforcing Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1661-1708.
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  18. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2010. "Political Selection and Persistence of Bad Governments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(4), pages 1511-1575.
  19. Wintrobe,Ronald, 1998. "The Political Economy of Dictatorship," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521583299, March.
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