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Leaders with Hegemonic Aspirations and Democratic Backsliding: Insights from an Organizational Perspective

Worldwide, democracies face a new threat: democratically elected wannabe autocrats. The legal, electoral and rhetorical strategies used by such leaders have striking similarities: They modify constitutions to weaken judicial independence, fiscal control institutions and other independent agencies, attempt to take over the media to quell critical voices and attack opposition actors, and often criminalize the political opposition with a polarizing rhetoric.


Yet, not every leader who tries to implement these policies is successful at transforming her country’s political institutions and remaining in office. Why do some leaders with hegemonic aspirations - leaders who have tried to increase their formal powers and to limit electoral competition by either increasing censorship, prosecuting opposition actors, or attempting to change the electoral rules or calendar –  “successfully” defeat challenges to their hegemonic projects, like Chavez or Erdogan did, while others lose office or are unable to overcome critical electoral and institutional checks on their authority, like Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Alvaro Uribe in Colombia or Cristina Kirchner in Argentina? The project attempts to answer these questions by collecting and analyzing  data on leaders with hegemonic aspirations worldwide since 1990 and by constructing structured case comparisons, principally focusing on Turkey and Ecuador.

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