Christian von Soest and Laurence Whitehead are guest editors of a Forum Section to be published in the November issue of the European Journal of Political Research, featuring five contributions on IDCAR-related topics.
Christian von Soest: Democracy prevention: The international collaboration of authoritarian regimes This article provides a conceptual framework for various aspects of international authoritarian collaboration to prevent democracy, particularly the relationship between authoritarian regime types and their international democracy prevention policies. It differentiates between authoritarian diffusion, learning, collaboration and support, as well as between deliberate efforts to avert democracy and efforts not explicitly geared towards strengthening autocracy. The article further distinguishes between crisis events and normal conditions where authoritarian rulers’ hold on power is not in danger. It is argued that authoritarian powers’ motivations to provide support to fellow autocrats are self-serving rather than driven by an ideological commitment to creating an ‘authoritarian international’.
Julia Bader: Propping up dictators? Economic cooperation from China and its impact on
authoritarian persistence in party and non-party regimes
This article investigates how China’s economic cooperation affects authoritarian persistence elsewhere. For the period 1998–2008, the article assesses quantitatively whether the effects of economic cooperation from China vary, conditioned by the regime type of the recipient. The analysis finds that China’s economic cooperation is associated with regime durability in party-based regimes. In non-party regimes, in contrast, it is associated with regime collapse.
Lucan Way: The limits of autocracy promotion: The case of Russia in the ‘near abroad’
This article assesses the efficacy of autocracy promotion through a close examination of Russian efforts to shape regime outcomes in the former Soviet Union. It finds that while Russian actions have periodically promoted instability and secessionist conflict, there is little evidence that such intervention has made post-Soviet countries less democratic than they would have been otherwise. First, the Russian government has been inconsistent in its support for autocracy. At the same time, the Russian government’s narrow concentration on its own economic and geopolitical interests has significantly limited the country’s influence, fostering a strong counter-reaction in countries with strong anti-Russian national identities. Finally, Russia’s impact on democracy in the region has been restricted by the fact that post-Soviet countries already have weak democratic prerequisites.This analysis suggests that, despite increasingly aggressive foreign policies by autocratic regional powers, autocracy promotion does not present a particularly serious threat to democracy in the world today.
Jakob Tolstrup (Aarhus): Black knights and elections in authoritarian regimes: Why and how Russia supports authoritarian incumbents in post-Soviet states
In the last decade, studies have documented how autocrats use elections as a way of legitimising and stabilising their regimes. Simultaneously, a literature on negative external actors (also known as ‘black knights’) has developed, emphasising how various international actors use anti-democracy promotion strategies to undergird authoritarian regimes. This article sheds light on the external dimension of authoritarian elections and what is termed ‘black knight election bolstering’. First, five mechanisms are elucidated, through which external assistance increases the chances of ‘winning’ elections in authoritarian settings. Second, it is argued that external actors are most likely to offer election bolstering when they face a particularly acquiescent partner or when electoral defeat is perceived to lead to radical and undesired regime change. The relevance of both factors is augmented when uncertainty of the electoral outcome is high. Finally, four cases of Russian intervention during elections in three authoritarian neighbour countries (Ukraine in 2004, Belarus in 2006, and Moldova in 2005 and 2009) are analysed.The case studies corroborate the theoretical arguments: not only does Russia engage in all five types of black knight election bolstering, but it does so only when one or more of the three explanatory factors are present.
Daniel Odinius (Bamberg) and Philipp Kuntz (Bochum): The limits of authoritarian solidarity: The Gulf monarchies and preserving authoritarian rule during the Arab Spring
During the Arab Spring the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) supported fellow authoritarian regimes in some cases while backing opposition movements in others. Existing theoretical approaches fail to explain this variation. Advancing the study on authoritarian cooperation, this article develops a theoretical approach that sets out to explain how authoritarian regimes reach their decisions. Drawing on poliheuristic foreign policy analysis, it argues that perceptions of similarity serve as a filter for estimating threats to regime survival at home. If regimes perceive the situation in other countries as similar to their own, supporting other authoritarian regimes becomes the only acceptable strategy. In contrast, if perceptions of similarity are low, regimes also consider other options and evaluate their implications beyond the domestic political arena. Applying this framework to the example of the GCC states during the Arab Spring, the analysis reveals covariation between perceptions of similarity and threat among GCC regimes, on the one hand, and their strategies, on the other.