When Does Backsliding Lead to Breakdown? Uncertainty and Opposition Strategies in Democracies at Risk

Matthew R. Cleary, Aykut Öztürk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

In recent decades, prominent national leaders like Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez gained power through democratic institutions, only to undermine those institutions once in office as part of a broader effort to consolidate authoritarian power. Yet attempts at "executive aggrandizement"have failed in other countries, with varying consequences for democratic institutions. We develop an agency-based perspective to enhance the understanding of aggrandizement and to explain when it results in democratic breakdown. Relying on comparative case studies of five countries-Bolivia, Ecuador, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela-our analysis suggests that the contingent decisions of opposition actors during the process of aggrandizement have a significant effect on regime outcomes. Irregular opposition attempts to remove incumbents from office, which are especially likely after electoral defeats, contribute to democratic breakdown. More moderate responses to aggrandizement, on the other hand, help the opposition actors to buy time until the next election, hence offering the possibility for democratic survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPerspectives on Politics
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations

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