Life After Dictatorship: Authoritarian Successor Parties Worldwide Conference


Given the chance to choose their leaders through free and fair elections after transitions to democracy, surprisingly large numbers of people vote for political parties with deep roots in former dictatorships. Such “authoritarian successor parties”—parties formed by high-level incumbents of former authoritarian regimes that continue to operate following democratization—can be found in countries around the world.

Many authoritarian successor parties are key political actors, despite often having origins in regimes implicated in large-scale human rights violations. Perhaps even more surprisingly, many of these parties can be seen to have positive as well as negative consequences for new democracies. In fact, no consensus exists on whether such parties are primarily helpful or harmful to democracy.

This conference, organized by Visiting Fellow James Loxton and Faculty Fellow Scott Mainwaring, brings together a range of scholars to examine for the first time the phenomenon of authoritarian successor parties across regions. Experts on political parties in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America will address three broad questions from a comparative perspective:

  • What explains the existence of authoritarian successor parties?

  • Why are some authoritarian successor parties more successful than others?

  • What effects do authoritarian successor parties have on democratic regimes?

The conference aims to launch a cross-regional conversation on the conditions under which authoritarian successor parties can be seen as harmful or helpful to democracy, as well as to explore the roots of success and failure of such parties.

An edited volume gathering contributions and insights from the conference is planned.

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