Jordan succession. Andrew Spath research. Abdullah salutes Hussein.Dissertation:

When Leaders Change: The Effect of Leadership Succession on Political Activism in Non-Democratic Regimes

My dissertation analyzes how “regular” leadership change affects political activism in non-democratic regimes.  It examines the hereditary successions in Jordan (1999) and Syria (2000), challenging the conventional view that “regular” successions – those following pre-established rules and consensus through elite bargaining – in authoritarian Arab states reflect constancy in the relationship between ruler and ruled.  Extant literature suggests that these successions support regime maintenance.  But, eschewing the biases of the transitions paradigm, I argue that regular succession increases political activism in the near-term with lasting effects on government-opposition relations.

Syria Succession. Andrew Spath research. Bashar in front of Hafez.The case studies are the result of two years of field research in 2008 and 2012-13. In addition to formal and informal interviews, I use within-case event data analysis through the coding of newspapers to derive an original dataset of political activism during the succession period.  I extend my assertions beyond Jordan and Syria, quantitatively testing the effect of non-democratic succession on political activism globally using pooled cross-sectional time-series analysis from a combination of existing datasets. 

Working Papers:

Papers and abstracts on SSRN here.

Turbulence in Transition? Authoritarian Leader Succession and Civil Conflict

The relationship between leadership change and conflict behavior figures prominently in the international relations literature. Lesser studied from a cross-national perspective, however, is the effect of leadership succession on civil unrest. How does leadership succession affect the propensity for domestic turbulence? I examine the effect of leadership change on levels of political unrest and instability through an analysis of executive leadership changes from 1950 to 2008. The findings indicate that state institutions, specifically authoritarian regime type and the presence of formal succession procedures, as well as the manner by which leaders change influence post-succession unrest. Both regular and irregular means of succession increase the propensity for turmoil, the latter to a greater extent, while formal succession procedures alleviate this risk. Personalized regimes are most vulnerable to domestic disorder as leaders change, though the distinction between military and civilian regimes has an important effect on the forms of disorder that are likely.

Steam Valve or Accelerant: Elections and Contention in Authoritarian Regimes

Why are some elections marked by civil unrest and others not? This paper sheds light on how national elections in various types of authoritarian systems influence the potential for domestic political contention. The appropriation of the ballot in dictatorships serves many functions for regime preservation, but elections are politicizing events that involve significant risks as well. I use pooled cross-national time-series analysis of all elections in authoritarian regimes from 1950 to 2012 to analyze the election-contention relationship across non-democratic regimes. The analysis highlights the importance of electoral competitiveness, as well as the need to disaggregate election type (executive and legislative) and authoritarian regime type.

Learning Strategic Decisionmaking in ‘Authoritania’: An Events Simulation

Authoritania is a fictional country through which students are exposed to decision-making processes across a range of actors in an authoritarian context. The simulation is a supplement to my course “Authoritarianism: Institutions & Practices” as a means to reinforce course material presented in more traditional classroom instruction. The simulation emphasizes three areas of learning — bureaucratic politics, contingent events, and government-activist interaction — and mixes in-class simulation sessions and a significant online component through a website designed and administered specifically for the simulation. The paper discusses the specifics of the simulation goals, design, implementation, and learning outcomes.


The full-size visualization is HERE, and a short blog post I wrote on creating the visualization is HERE.