Lecture: Living by the Sword and Dying by the Sword?: Leadership Transitions in and out of Dictatorships


Location: Hesburgh Center, Room C103

Alexandre Debs
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Yale University

What explains the post-tenure fate of dictators? How does the treatment of ousted dictators affect their propensity to democratize? We tackle such questions in a model, with one leader and N-1 factions. First, the leader decides whether to democratize. Second, players decide whether the leader leaves office and, if so, whether he is eliminated. Third, surviving players divide a dollar. We conclude that a leader may be eliminated because he cannot commit to refrain from using his capacity for violence in the future. The greater a leader’s capacity for violence, the more likely he is to be eliminated upon his ouster. Since a dictator can remain in office unless he is threatened with violence, leaders with greater capacity for violence are more likely to lose office in a dictatorship and they are more likely to democratize. We provide support for our theory in the post-World War II period.