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Learning to Love Democracy: Electoral Accountability, Government Performance, and the Consolidation of Democracy

Learning to Love Democracy: Electoral Accountability, Government Performance, and the Consolidation of Democracy

March 3, 2011 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm
Event Speaker: 
Milan Svolik, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Event Sponsor: 
The Munro Lectureship Fund and The Lane Center
Abstract: 

A central promise of democracy is to deliver good governance by holding politicians accountable for their performance in office. I explain why, in new democracies, elections may fail as an instrument of electoral accountability and thereby precipitate the breakdown of democracy. I model the process by which elections allow candidates to build reputations for performing well and weed out those candidates that cannot be deterred from performing poorly by the threat of removal from office. This process fails when repeated dissatisfaction with the performance of individual politicians turns into doubts about the value of democracy as a political system. When successful, this process gradually strengthens voters’ belief that elections can deliver political accountability and leads to the  consolidation of democracy, a state in which democratic breakdowns no longer occur. This theory explains why new and poor  democracies are more vulnerable to breakdown than old and rich ones, why economic recessions lead to democratic breakdowns, and why, in new democracies, public support for democracy declines during economic downturns.

Biography: 
Milan Svolik is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received his Ph.D. in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago in 2006.
 
His current research is in two main areas: i) the politics of authoritarian regimes and ii) the politics of democratic transitions and consolidation. His broader research interests are in comparative and international politics, particularly the political economy of institutions, formal political theory, and statistical methodology.
 
His research on the politics of authoritarian regimes consists of a series of papers that investigate power-sharing, institutions, leader survival, and accountability in authoritarian regimes. He has also collected original data on leadership change in authoritarian regimes and data on coups d'état across regime types. He is currently incorporating this research into a book manuscript, provisionally entitled The Politics of Authoritarian Rule.