Anne Meng, Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics, University of Virginia, presented her paper “Autocratic Constitutions and Leadership Succession in Dictatorial Regimes”
The first joint seminar of 2017 of NES
the Study of Diversity and Social Interactions and HSE
International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development took place on Tuesday, September 19, 2017.
Under what conditions can autocratic regimes undergo successful leadership transitions? The problem of transferring power has long been identified as one of the key challenges of continued authoritarian rule. Two main mechanisms that have emerged as potential solutions for autocratic succession are the presence of a ruling party and the implementation of hereditary succession. However, using a global dataset of autocratic successions from 1946-2015, I show that hereditary successions are incredibly rare in modern dictatorships, and that the presence of a ruling party is not a strong predictor of peaceful leadership succession. Instead, I argue that constitutional rules play a critical role in regulating the process of autocratic succession. I show evidence of this argument using original data on constitutional amendments outlining succession rules and the appointment of a de facto successor in 47 African countries from 1960-2005. I find that regimes that have formal succession rules written into the constitution and leaders who designate a clear successor are significantly more likely to undergo multiple leadership successions – regardless of whether the regime has a long-standing ruling party. Rather than introducing the crown prince problem, planning for leadership succession seems to be a stabilizing force for continued autocratic rule.