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The Foundations of Limited Authoritarian Government: Institutions and Power-Sharing in Dictatorships

Carles Boix and Milan Svolik ()
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Carles Boix: Princeton University

Papers from Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy

Abstract: Why do some dictatorships establish institutions that are typically associated with democracy, such as legislatures or political parties? We propose a new theoretical model of institutions and power-sharing in dictatorships. We argue that by facilitating power-sharing, political institutions promote the survival of dictatorships. However, authoritarian power-sharing through institutions is feasible only when it is backed by the crude but credible threat of a rebellion by the dictator's allies. Whereas the allies' political opportunities determine the credibility of the threat of a rebellion, institutions alleviate the commitment and monitoring problems that stem from the secrecy in authoritarian governance. We use both historical and large-N data to assess these new predictions about the relationship between political institutions, dictator tenure, and the concentration of power in dictatorships.

Date: 2009
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