The Dictator’s Dilemma at the Ballot Box

Electoral Manipulation, Economic Maneuvering, and Political Order in Autocracy
Masaaki Higashijima
Dictators don't dance


Modern dictatorships hold elections. Contrary to our stereotypic images of autocratic politics, modern autocrats often introduce relatively free and fair elections wherein they refrain from employing blatant electoral manipulation and pro-regime electoral institutions. Why do such “electoral reforms” happen in modern autocracies? Do these elections destabilize autocratic rule? With these questions in mind, this book explores the manners in which dictators design elections and what consequences those elections have on political order. This book argues that strong autocrats, who can effectively obtain popular support through extensive economic distribution, become less dependent on coercive measures in elections. The theory and empirical findings presented in this book suggest that signs of free and fair elections in dictatorships may not be enough for these regimes to achieve full-fledged democratization.
Masaaki Higashijima is Associate Professor of Political Science at Tohoku University, Japan.

Praise / Awards

  • “This book is an outstanding contribution to the field.  It informs our understanding of a variety of understudied features of authoritarian rule, including the reasons why fraud varies across autocracies, why dictatorships have different electoral rules, the tradeoffs dictatorships must consider in their election strategies, and the consequences their choices have for authoritarian survival.”

    —Erica Frantz, Associate Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University

  • “Masaaki Higashijima’s book is an ambitious an important contribution to the study of electoral authoritarianism. Marshalling detailed cross-national comparisons and rich case studies, the book expands on the dilemmas that autocracies face with regard to elections and the key role of popular mobilization. The book provides new perspectives into an autocrat’s decision about how much to manipulate elections, and importantly about when electoral manipulation strengthens autocracy rather than undermines it.”

    —Yonatan L. Morse, University of Connecticut

Product Details

  • 368 pages.
  • 49 figures, 49 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2022
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-22008-3

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