The Era of Electoral Authoritarianism


In recent years scholarly attention has shifted from the study of democratization to the phenomenon of electoral authoritarianism. In these regimes, regular elections are held for national legislatures and chief executives, yet they fail to live up to democratic standards of freedom and fairness. A range of new research has investigated these regimes and especially the capacity of elections to either dislodge or reinvigorate authoritarian incumbents. This article reviews some of the current work on electoral authoritarianism and attempts to find ways to achieve synthesis and better theoretical development. It notes the need for greater conceptual consensus, attention to context, and better evaluation of what electoral competiveness means under authoritarian conditions. It argues that the next stage for research should be smaller and contextual comparison that can allow for greater attention to concepts, while allowing for strong midrange theory.