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How Autocrats Compete
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Book description

Most autocrats now hold unfair elections, yet how they compete in them and manipulate them differs greatly. How Autocrats Compete advances a theory that explains variation in electoral authoritarian competition. Using case studies of Tanzania, Cameroon, and Kenya, along with broader comparisons from Africa, it finds that the kind of relationships autocrats foster with supporters and external actors matters greatly during elections. When autocrats can depend on credible ruling parties that provide elites with a level playing field and commit to wider constituencies, they are more certain in their own support and can compete in elections with less manipulation. Shelter from international pressure further helps autocrats deploy a wider range of coercive tools when necessary. Combining in-depth field research, within-case statistics, and cross-regional comparisons, Morse fills a gap in the literature by focusing on important variation in authoritarian institution building and international patronage. Understanding how autocrats compete sheds light on the comparative resilience and durability of modern authoritarianism.


‘Why do some authoritarian regimes enjoy genuine electoral support, while others resort to electoral manipulation and repression to stay in power? In this sophisticated analysis of contemporary authoritarian regimes, Yonatan L. Morse attributes variation in autocrats' electoral strategies to both the legacies of institution building and to the nature of international patronage. Morse's account is rich in nuance and firmly rooted in African politics, yet provides generalizable lessons that will be of interest to scholars of comparative politics and international relations alike.'

Daniela Donno - University of Pittsburgh

‘Yonatan L. Morse's book is an excellent contribution to the study of electoral authoritarian regimes. Grounded in a deep knowledge of contrasting cases such as Cameroon and Tanzania, the book focuses on the internal workings of ruling parties to provide new insights on how autocrats manage to hold onto power in some countries without having to resort to violence and fraud during elections.'

Leonardo R. Arriola - Director of the Center for African Studies, University of California, Berkeley

‘This ambitious, imaginative and well written book has a great deal to tell us about how authoritarians give themselves an unfair electoral advantage - and so keep themselves in power - in Africa. We need to understand that authoritarians have gone from refusing to hold elections to finding new ways to rig them, and this book provides essential insights about how and why this has happened.'

Nic Cheeseman - University of Birmingham and author of How to Rig an Election

'This book makes an impressive theoretical and empirical contribution, helping to move research on electoral authoritarianism beyond questions of durability and stability to a new question: how such regimes compete.'

Susan Dodsworth Source: Democratization

'Yonatan Morse’s book is a must read for anyone interested in autocratic institutions or African political parties. It is a welcome qualitative analysis of autocratic parties that offers an in depth look at opaque organizations that nonetheless have had profound impacts on the political trajectories of the regimes they serve.'

Natalie Wenzell Letsa Source: Perspectives on Politics

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