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Unlikely Democrats: Economic Elite Uncertainty under Dictatorship and Support for Democratization

Michael Albertus 1, * Victor Gay 1
* Corresponding author
Abstract : Influential recent scholarship assumes that authoritarian rulers act as perfect agents of economic elites, foreclosing the possibility that economic elites may at times prefer democracy absent a popular threat from below. Motivated by a puzzling set of democratic transitions, we relax this assumption and examine how elite uncertainty about dictatorship-a novel and generalizable causal mechanism impacting democratization-can induce elite support for democracy. We construct a noisy signaling model in which a potential autocrat attempts to convince economic elites that he will be a faithful partner should elites install him in power. The model generates clear predictions about how two major types of elite uncertainty-uncertainty in a potential autocratic successor's policies produced by variance in the pool of would-be dictator types, and uncertainty in the truthfulness of policy promises made by potential autocratic successors-impact the likelihood of elite-driven democratization. We demonstrate the model's plausibility in a series of cases of democratic transition.
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Submitted on : Thursday, April 2, 2020 - 9:48:14 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - 3:14:17 PM

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Michael Albertus, Victor Gay. Unlikely Democrats: Economic Elite Uncertainty under Dictatorship and Support for Democratization. American Journal of Political Science, Wiley, 2017, 61 (3), pp.624-641. ⟨10.1111/ajps.12277⟩. ⟨hal-02523084⟩

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