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V-Dem Lunch Seminar with Melis Laebens

Research profile seminar

Melis Laebens, visiting scholar 18-22 March, presents "Dangerous Parties? Party Organization and the Success of Executives with Hegemonic Aspirations".

Abstract: The last two decades have witnessed a remarkable increase in the number of democratically elected leaders who implement policies aiming to establish hegemonic control over political institutions and becoming dominant in the electoral arena. Leaders with hegemonic aspirations, despite governing in countries with very diverse political institutions, history and culture, adopt a similar set of policy goals and discursive styles. In general, their strategy is to remove judicial, legislative and budgetary checks on executive power, and to establish control over political discourse and public information. Yet, the effort to implement hegemony-seeking policies is not equally successful everywhere, and produces different levels of democratic backsliding and tenure security for leaders. The present paper describes this variation and attempts to explain it. I argue that the extent to which leaders with hegemonic aspirations are successful in expanding their powers and keeping themselves in office, depends primarily on their ability to remain electorally dominant, at least until authoritarian institutions can be established and repression is normalized. This ability to establish and maintain electoral superiority while legislating a radical and polarizing institutional transformation, increases when the leader has a highly centralized political organization that can sustain direct ties with a large base of voters. The organizational capacity at the leader´s disposal becomes all the more important if and when economic growth slows down.

Using the cases of the AKP government in Turkey, the PiS government in Poland and Rafael Correa´s presidency in Ecuador, the paper lays out the causal mechanisms linking political organization to the success of the hegemonic-authoritarian project, and discusses the interactions between political organization and other factors that the literature suggests explain the success of executive aggrandizement: Economic growth and polarization. To do so, I rely on elite interviews conducted in all three countries, as well as on electoral data and data on legislator backgrounds.

Lecturer: Melis Laebens is a PhD candidate in the political science department at Yale University, and is currently a Fox Fellow at the Free University in Berlin.

Date: 3/20/2019

Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Categories: Social Sciences

Organizer: Department of Political Science/V-Dem

Location: B336, Stora Skansen

Contact person: Natalia Stepanova

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