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The Politics of Uncertainty: Sustaining and Subverting Electoral Authoritarianism
  • Andreas Schedler
Electoral authoritarian regimes practice authoritarianism behind the institutional facades of representative democracy. They hold multiparty elections, yet violate democratic principles in systematic and profound ways. Today they have become the most common form of dictatorship in the world. The Politics of Uncertainty studies regime struggles between government and opposition under electoral authoritarianism. In its analytical part, it develops a theory of authoritarian elections which is grounded in a general theory of authoritarian politics. Both revolve around conflicts over uncertainty. In its empirical part, it explores the internal dynamics of electoral autocracies on the basis of an original dataset on authoritarian elections worldwide. All authoritarian regimes, Schedler argues, suffer from two forms of uncertainty. They suffer from institutional uncertainties: their hold on power is never secure. And they suffer from informational uncertainties: they can never know for sure how secure they are. While the comparative literature has barely recognized these uncertainties, Schedler identifies them as the central axes of regimes struggles under dictatorship. Actors are exposed to them, but also strive to actively shape them. The “politics of uncertainty” comprises their competitive struggle over these twin uncertainties. In electoral autocracies, it unfolds primarily as competitive struggle over electoral uncertainty. Their formal institutional configuration makes electoral autocracies different from other autocracies. By admitting multiparty elections they open up an arena of struggle that changes their inner logic of conflict. The Politics of Uncertainty deciphers their distinctive logic through the lenses of “political institutionalism”: it takes formal institutions under authoritarianism seriously, but politics too.
  • Political regimes,
  • authoritarianism,
  • elections,
  • manipulation,
  • nested games
Publication Date
Oxford University Press
Citation Information
Andreas Schedler. The Politics of Uncertainty: Sustaining and Subverting Electoral Authoritarianism. Oxford, UK(2013)
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