Book Project

Autocratic Legacies and Immunisation Against Extremism:
A Rational Choice Approach

How do legacies of autocratic regimes shape post-transitional voting in extremist and mainstream parties with links to the former regime?

Can legacies of autocratic regimes shape contemporary extremism? And why do some post-transitional democracies have mainstream parties associated with the former regime, despite the effects of repression?

Using a rational choice theoretical approach, my book project attempts to answer these questions. It demonstrates that the “self-interested” relationship between the general population and autocratic incumbents, operating through a top-down logic of reception of various kinds of material benefits provided by autocratic policy outputs, are crucial factors in shaping post-transitional attitudes towards the regimes’ policies and consequently, voting preferences. Popular support has been shown to be a crucial element for the long-term stability of dictatorships. In order to increase it, autocratic leaders may produce general policy outputs, that will benefit virtually all the population, or particularistic policy outputs, that will only benefit specific groups. The top-down provision of these two policy outcomes will create distinct relations of self-interested dependence with the population, culminating in two different kinds of support.

But what happens to this stock of popular support after transitions to democracy? Rational voters will have incentives to vote in a way that allows them to keep, or minimise the loss of the material benefits distributed during the former regime, in the new uncertain democratic context. Consequentially, in regimes that created general support, newly formed parties will utilise the positive inheritance of the former regime, having incentives to become mainstream in order to maximise their electoral success. This is possible because the majority of the population benefited from general outputs. Conversely, regimes that exclusively created particularistic support only benefited a niche segment of the general population, being unfavourable to the great majority. Therefore, unable to become mainstream, in order to utilise this legacy, associated parties are more likely to become extremist.

This book project is the result of my doctoral thesis that was developed in a manuscript format. It uses mixed quantitative and qualitative methods and primary data retrieved from archives.
The thesis can be sent upon request.