Why do military dictatorships become presidential democracies? Mapping the democratic interests of autocratic regimes

  • Christian BjørnskovEmail author


Recent data show that virtually all military dictatorships that democratize become presidential democracies. I hypothesize that the reason is that military interests are able to coordinate on status-preserving institutional change prior to democratization and prefer political institutions with strong veto players. Civilian interests are more likely to suffer from coordination failure by being more diverse and less cohesive, implying that most military democratizations are planned partially while most democratization events from civilian autocracy are unforeseen or poorly planned. Exploring the characteristics of 111 democratization episodes between 1950 and 2017 illustrates features broadly consistent with further theoretical predictions.


Dictatorship Democracy Political institutions 

JEL Classifications

P16 D72 D74 K16 



I thank Marina Rapp for providing the impetus and some of the first ideas for this paper, and Sascha Becker, Geoffrey Brennan, Michael Dorsch, Stephan Gohmann, Arye Hillman, Jean Lacroix, Martin Rode, Ahmed Skali, participants of the first conference on the Political Economy of Democracy and Dictatorship in Münster (February 2017) and the 10th Australasian Public Choice Conference in Melbourne (December 2017), three anonymous reviewers and the editor (Bill Shughart) for comments on earlier versions. I am also grateful to the Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius Foundation for generous financial support. Needless to say, all remaining errors are entirely my fault.

Supplementary material

11127_2019_736_MOESM1_ESM.docx (32 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 32 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsAarhus UniversityAarhus VDenmark
  2. 2.Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)StockholmSweden

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