Turnover of leaders of authoritarian regimes: conditions, options

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Author: Iliya Shablinsky

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2020-5-13-25

Keywords: authoritarian leaders; authoritarian regime; democratic institutions; post-Soviet States; transfer of power


The article is devoted to the possibility of changing power within regimes that are considered authoritarian (or hybrid). The practice of some such regimes shows that they still allow for a real and sometimes even regular change of power, without changing their character and, in fact, without allowing the real functioning of democratic institutions. Special attention is paid to the States formed in the space of the former USSR. It is noted that the post-Soviet authoritarian regimes can be separated into a separate subspecies. The article discusses the following options for transferring power under an authoritarian regime. It is possible: 1) as a consequence of contradictions within the ruling group and the involuntary departure of the former leader; or 2) through the execution by the members of the specified group of informal arrangements that can include both the actual transfer — the actual transfer of power to a new person, and an imaginary transfer — the appointment of the regime’s new head, who remains under the tight control of the former ruler, who retains real power. The role of constitutional norms limiting the President’s tenure to two terms is specifically considered. This restriction, in particular, was established in the constitutions of almost all post-Soviet States. But the relevant rules were either canceled (as in Belarus and Azerbaijan) or ignored (as, for example, in Uzbekistan). At the same time, similar rules have played a role in Mexico and China. Separately, the article deals with cases when political transfer is triggered by the work of completely democratic institutions, such as elections or referendums which for some reason are allowed by an authoritarian leader, and leads to real democratization. In particular, the author draws attention to the experience of Chile and Brazil.

About the author: Ilya Shablinsky – Doctor of Sciences in Law, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Shablinsky I. (2020) Smenyaemost’ liderov avtoritarnykh rezhimov: usloviya, varianty [Turnover of leaders of authoritarian regimes: conditions, options]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.29, no.5, pp.13–25. (In Russian).


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