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Uniting Against Autocrats : Opposition Coordination, Turnovers and Democratization by Elections


  • Michael Wahman

Summary, in English

As counter intuitive as it might sound, autocracy without elections is a rare combination today. Elections do not constitute democracy, but they can promote democratization. This dissertation studies the process of democratization through elections, focusing on the effect of opposition coordination. Several authors have stressed the importance of opposition coordination as an explanation for democratization by elections, emphasizing how a coordinated opposition increases the electoral pressure on incumbent regimes and enhances the probability of electoral turnovers. However, little research has been done investigating the causes for opposition coordination under electoral authoritarianism, or studying the more long-term consequences of coordination beyond the electoral outcome. This dissertation does so in four independent, but related, articles probing the overall question: How is democratization by elections achieved and what causal explanatory power can be attributed to opposition coordination for obtaining democratizing outcomes in authoritarian elections?

Using statistical evidence from electoral authoritarian regimes around the globe, together with in-depth case studies of three African countries, Ghana, Kenya and Senegal, the findings diverge substantially from much of the previous research. The general causal relationship between opposition coordination and democratization by elections is questioned. It is argued that much of the previous literature has confused alternation with democratization. Oppositional politicians radically change their institutional preferences once they assume office, and although coordination increases the prospects for turnovers, it often does not result in long-term democratization. In cases where parties are poorly institutionalized and appeal to voters through patronage rather than through different distinguishable policy agendas, coordination often reflects the probability of election turnovers rather than causes democratization.

Publishing year





Lund Political Studies



Document type



Lund University


  • Political Science


  • Democratization
  • authoritarianism
  • election
  • party
  • opposition
  • coalition
  • ethnic
  • Africa
  • Kenya
  • Ghana
  • Senegal





  • ISSN: 0460-0037
  • ISBN: 978-91-88306-82-1

Defence date

27 April 2012

Defence time


Defence place

Edens Hörsal, Paradisgatan 5H, Lund


  • Andreas Schedler