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The Politics of UncertaintySustaining and Subverting Electoral Authoritarianism$
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Andreas Schedler

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199680320

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199680320.001.0001

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The Power of Elections

The Power of Elections

(p.141) 5The Power of Elections
The Politics of Uncertainty

Andreas Schedler

Oxford University Press

Why do authoritarian rulers establish multiparty elections? The theoretical literature offers diverging expectations. Some expect elections to stabilize authoritarianism, others to destabilize it, still others to pull it towards democracy. The empirical literature on elections and authoritarian regimes has produced a broad array of findings that are not easily reconcilable. In a systematic review of existing large-N studies, the chapter interprets the diversity of findings in the light of differences in research design, above all, in the selection of dependent, independent, and control variables. Its overall conclusions confirm the notion that authoritarian multiparty elections are ambiguous institutions that benefit rulers as well as dissidents, even if asymmetrically. They allow rulers to prolong their hold on power and opposition actors to subvert it through peaceful means. Elections are not invariant causes, but arenas of struggle. Their power does not lie in their capacity to produce determinate outcomes, but to produce indeterminacy.

Keywords:   dictatorship, elections, political survival, regime trajectories, democratization by elections

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