Authoritarian Successor Parties Worldwide: A Framework for Analysis

Stream: Panel 20 - Comparative Politics: Authoritarian Politics in the Modern World 
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm
Speaker(s): James Loxton

A surprising feature of democratization in many countries is that large numbers of people, after gaining the right to choose their leaders through free and fair elections, vote for political parties with deep roots in dictatorship. Since the onset of the third wave, these “authoritarian successor parties” have become prominent actors in democratic regimes in Africa, Asia, post-communist Europe, and Latin America (Loxton 2015). In many countries, former authoritarian ruling parties (e.g., Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland, SdRP; Taiwan’s Kuomintang, KMT; Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI), and parties founded by high-level authoritarian incumbents shortly before or shortly after a transition to democracy (e.g., Bolivia’s Nationalist Democratic Action, ADN; Ghana’s National Democratic Congress, NDC; Tunisia’s Nidaa Tounes), have been voted back into office. What explains the existence and frequent success of authoritarian successor parties? Why are some more successful than others? And in what ways can they harm—or help—the democracies in which they operate? This paper establishes a framework for the analysis of authoritarian successor parties as a worldwide phenomenon. To this end, it defines and operationalizes the concept, provides new data on their prevalence, discusses several puzzles that they raise, considers a range of hypotheses related to these puzzles, and introduces new concepts to facilitate future research on this topic.