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date: 27 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The literature on the choice and effects of electoral rules in autocracies tends to focus on the dictator’s preferences. However, it is important to recognize that even the most powerful autocrats choose rules under constraints. The constraints may come in the form of opposition actors who threaten the regime or the dictator’s own limited information or knowledge about how the rules work and the distribution of preferences among the electorate. The uncertainty over voter preferences is a particularly acute problem for autocracies where coercion and manipulation are rampant, and the expression of sincere preferences through media and electoral polls is limited. These tactics enable autocrats to win elections but may condition the effects of electoral rules, making the choice of rules difficult. The end result may be that the problem of electoral choice is more difficult for autocrats even if they face fewer formal institutional constraints than their democratic counterparts.

Keywords: electoral systems, autocracy, institutional choice, electoral authoritarianism, elections

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