Subverting Autocracy: Emancipative Mass Values in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes
Competitive elections in authoritarian regimes are inherently ambiguous: do they extend regime persistence or, vice versa, operate as subversive events? This article tests Inglehart and Welzel's “emancipatory theory of democracy”, which has not been tested for competitive elections in autocracies: when emancipative values grow strong, autocratic power appears increasingly illegitimate in people's eyes, which motivates subversive mass actions against authoritarian rule. For electoral outcomes this suggestion implies, first, that authoritarian incumbents are more likely to suffer electoral defeat when emancipative values have become more widespread. Second, post-electoral protest against fraudulent elections is more likely when emancipative values have become more widespread. To test these hypotheses, we analyse 152 elections among 33 electoral authoritarian regimes over 21 years from 1990–2011. We find that emancipative values are indeed strongly conducive to incumbent defeat while their effect on post-electoral protest is conditional: it only occurs in elections won by the incumbent. These findings intertwine two separately developed literatures: one on authoritarian regime subversion and the other on emancipatory cultural change.