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Hereditary Succession in Modern Autocracies

From: World Politics
Volume 59, Number 4, July 2007
pp. 595-628 | 10.1353/wp.2008.0002


Hereditary succession, the conventional method for preserving monarchies, has also been used to perpetuate republic-style dictatorships. With an original data set of 258 post–World War II nonmonarchical autocrats, the author tests Gordon Tullock's hypothesis that hereditary succession appeals to the ruler and to nonfamilial elites wary of a leadership struggle. The full data and close comparisons of succession outcomes are consistent with Tullock's account. In the absence of prior experience selecting a ruler through a party, regime elites accepted filial heirs apparent; when the incumbent had arisen from a party, his successor predominantly emerged from that organization. Among twenty-two cases of potential hereditary succession, variations in institutional history account for 77 percent of succession outcomes. Where the ruler preceded the party, five rulers in seven cases groomed sons and all five sons took office. In contrast, where the party predated the ruler, incumbents successfully installed sons in only three of fifteen cases.