Back to search

FRIHUMSAM-Fri prosj.st. hum og sam

Elite Political Dynamics in Electoral Autocracies

Alternative title: Politiske eliter i autoritære konkurranseregimer

Awarded: NOK 10.1 mill.

In ELITE we are studying political elites in electoral autocracies. We will dig into how they make strategic choices to promote their own careers, and what the consequences are for the overall political system and for societal outcomes. The project is divided between three areas of interest. First, we will study the interaction between members of parliament and the executive branch to better understand the conditions under which the unity of permanently organized parties is promoted or hindered. Political parties are important to hold political leaders responsible for their actions, but the development of party organizations, especially in non-democratic systems, is still poorly understood. Second, we will study whether and how judges adapt their decisions to political pressure. We wish to understand why courts sometimes are empowered to rule independent from government interests and why the judiciary sometimes instead defers to the interests of the regime. This has implications for the rule of law which is an essential institution for a modern political and economic system. Third, we will study the effect of elite competition on human development. Politicians in electoral autocracies must compete for votes, but the freedom of expression and organization in these elections are often very limited. It therefore remains unclear whether electoral competition in electoral autocracies are sufficient to motivate politicians to invest in their electorate. To accomplish this, ELITE is focusing on an in-depth look at the Zambian political system. We are currently systematizing details about the political and judicial system in Zambia. Using this, ELITE can produce unique insights about elite dynamics in electoral autocracies. This allows the project to dig into many of the standard assumptions in the literature, and tests these in rigorous, large-N setups combined with deep contextual knowledge.

The aim of ELITE is to study the rank-and-file of political elites in electoral autocracies, and how their strategic interaction affects the overall political system and societal outcomes. The project is divided between three areas of interest. First, we will study the interaction among members of parliament and the executive branch to understand the conditions under which the unity of permanently organized parties is promoted or hindered. Political parties are among the most important institutions for functioning accountability in political systems, but their development is not well understood. Second, we will study the strategic interaction between judges and politicians that explain why judges sometimes are empowered to rule independent from government interests and why the judiciary sometimes instead defers to the interests of the regime. This has implications for the rule of law which is an essential institution for a modern political and economic system. Third, we will study the effect of elite competition on human development. It remains unclear whether electoral competition in electoral autocracies are sufficient to motivate politicians to invest in their electorate, which we will study directly in ELITE. To accomplish this, ELITE will focus on an in-depth look at the Zambian political system. Due to an exceptional data availability from this country, ELITE can produce unique insights about elite dynamics in this specific political system. This allows the project to dig into many of the standard assumptions in the literature, and tests these in rigorous, large-N setups combined with deep contextual knowledge. Overall, the project will result in at least 8 journal articles, 2 policy briefs, 4 unique datasets on political institutions in Zambia, and a workshop. Hosted at PRIO, the project brings together research talent with complementary and different backgrounds and establishes a network with Zambian researchers.

Funding scheme:

FRIHUMSAM-Fri prosj.st. hum og sam