Home » General » When dictators die of natural causes, their regimes remain intact

TransitionsWhen dictators die of natural causes, their regimes remain intact

Published 6 November 2016

A dictator’s death of natural causes rarely leads to regime change, according to a new study that comes as the remaining fifty-five authoritarian rulers currently in power are at least seventy years old and in various stages of declining health. The researchers have studied all seventy-nine cases of dictators dying in office between 1946 and 2012 and found the ruling regime remained intact through the following year 87 percent of the time.

A dictator’s death rarely leads to regime change, according to a new study that comes as a fifth of the world’s authoritarian rulers are at least seventy years old and in various stages of declining health.

MSU says that Erica Frantz of Michigan State University and Andrea Kendall-Taylor of the National Intelligence Council studied all seventy-nine cases of dictators dying in office between 1946 and 2012 and found the ruling regime remained intact through the following year 87 percent of the time.

By contrast, in all other forms of leadership exit in autocracies — including coups, civil wars, and foreign intervention — the regime remained intact for one year in only 43 percent of cases.

“Episodes of instability that come on the heels of the dictator’s death tend to dominate news headlines,” said Frantz, MSU assistant professor of political science. “But our findings suggest such events are far from the norm. Instability rarely results from a dictator’s passing.”

Eleven of the approximately fifty-five dictators around the world are at least 70 years old and in declining health, including Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (who’s 92) and Raul Castro of Cuba (85). “This means that a fifth of the world’s dictatorships will face a leadership turnover in the not-too-distant future,” the study says.

So why does a dictator’s death in office most often lead to a continuation of the status quo?

Unlike coups or departures spurred by elite consensus, a leader’s death of natural causes is not politically motivated. If dictators manage to remain in office until the very end, it means the regime’s followers by and large have remained loyal.

“We can therefore infer that dying dictators leave behind a set of players who support the status quo and the perks that it affords them,” the study says. “Such individuals have a strong incentive to converge on the selection of a successor in order to preserve their privileged access to the spoils of office.”

— Read more in Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz , “When Dictators Die,” Journal of Democracy 27, no. 4 (October 2016): 159-71

Leave a comment

Register for your own account so you may participate in comment discussion. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to abide by our Comment Guidelines, our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Use. Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief. Names are displayed with all comments. Learn more about Joining our Web Community.
Subcribe to my feedFollow on TwitterLike On Facebook Pinterest

Calendar

October 2017
MTWTFSS
« Sep  
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031 

Business News

Our Facebook Page