Shoring up Power: Electoral Reform and the Consolidation of Authoritarian Rule
39 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2020
Date Written: July 26, 2020
Why do autocrats adopt proportional representation (PR)? Conventional wisdom suggests autocrats should prefer majoritarian electoral rules because they favor large parties. Yet, since 1945, autocrats have been almost three times more likely to institute reforms towards PR than majoritarianism. Existing literature suggests incumbents institute PR to divide the opposition. We explore another motivation: executives switch to PR to ensure discipline among allies. We argue that such reforms are most likely when autocrats have a particular need to impose discipline — when ruling parties are nascent. Empirically, we examine the conditions under which changes to PR are likely with cross-national data from all electoral autocracies between 1945 and 2012. Additionally, we investigate a prominent case — the 2005 switch to PR in Russia — to illustrate the mechanisms and show how the reform solved the problem of control, allowing the Kremlin to focus on selecting electorally strong candidates.
Keywords: Autocracy, Electoral Systems, Proportional Representation, Russia
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