What explains the post-tenure fate of dictators? How does it affect their propensity to democratize? We tackle these questions in a model, with one leader and N − 1 factions. First, the leader decides whether to democratize. Second, players decide whether to oust the leader and eliminate each other. Third, surviving players divide the spoils of office. We conclude that a leader may be eliminated because he cannot commit to refrain from using violence in the future. The greater is a leader’s capacity for violence, the more likely he is to be eliminated upon his ouster. Since dictators can remain in office unless they are threatened with violence, leaders with greater capacity for violence are more likely to be ousted. Expecting a shorter tenure, leading to harsher treatment, leaders with greater capacity for violence are more likely to democratize. We provide support for our theory in the post-World War II period.
Alexandre Debs is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He is interested in the politics of weak institutions. His current projects look at the causes of international conflict, nuclear proliferation, and democratization. His previous work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, the Economics of Peace and Security Journal, the Journal of the History of Economic Thought, and the Quarterly Journal of Political Science. He received a Ph.d. degree in Economics from M.I.T., an M.Phil. from Oxford University and a B.Sc. from Universite de Montreal.