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Dominant Party Rule, Elections, and Cabinet Instability in African Autocracies

  • Alex M. Kroeger

This article draws on the authoritarian institutions literature to explain the role of dominant parties in constraining the ability of autocrats to reshuffle cabinet ministers. Dominant party leaders are constrained in their ability to frequently reshuffle ministers by the need to maintain credible power-sharing commitments with party elites. These constraints also produce distinct temporal patterns of instability where large reshuffles occur following elections. Conversely, personalist leaders face fewer power-sharing constraints and engage in more extensive cabinet reshuffles at more arbitrary intervals. Military leaders face complex constraints that depend on whether officers or civilians occupy cabinet posts and the extent to which leaders are dependent upon civilian ministers for regime performance and popular support. Empirical analyses using data on the cabinets of ninety-four authoritarian leaders from thirty-seven African countries between 1976 and 2010 support the theoretical expectations for dominant party and personalist leaders, but are inconclusive for military leaders.

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Department of Political Science, University of California, Merced (email: I thank Sona Golder, Courtney Hillebrecht, Alice Kang, Nam Kyu Kim, Ross Miller, and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Data replication sets available in Harvard Dataverse at: and online appendices are available at:

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