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Accessing the state: Executive constraints and credible commitment in dictatorship

Anne Meng

Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2019, vol. 31, issue 4, 568-599

Abstract: When do executive constraints provide credible commitment power in dictatorships, and under what conditions do leaders establish such constraints? This article argues that institutions successfully constrain autocrats only when elites are given real access to state power, such as appointments to key governmental positions. I present a game theoretic model in which an autocratic leader decides whether to establish binding constraints at the start of her rule. Doing so shifts the future distribution of power in favor of elites, alleviating commitment problems in bargaining. I show that leaders are likely to place constraints on their own authority when they enter power especially weak, and these initial decisions shape the rest of their rule. Even if a leader enters power in a uniquely weak position vis-á-vis other elites, and is on average, quite strong, the need to alleviate commitment problems in the first period swamps expectations about the future distribution of power. I illustrate the model’s findings through case studies of Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire.

Keywords: Africa; authoritarian regimes; credible commitment; executive constraints; formal theory (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:sae:jothpo:v:31:y:2019:i:4:p:568-599

DOI: 10.1177/0951629819875515

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