Ballots, Not Bullets for Real

How are leaders replaced outside of liberal republican democracies? For all the autocratic leaders who held office between 1946 and 2008, most (62 percent) were forced out involuntarily.[1] (See Figure 1 below.) Most of that happened through coups organized by internal competitors, but there were also assassinations, popular uprisings, and some foreign intervention as well.  Only 18 percent left voluntarily. Some (13 percent) died a natural death in office.  Finally, 7 percent left office due to transitions to democracy, mostly under circumstances the autocrats could not refuse.  All of this lends credence to the corny saying “ballots, not bullets” that many pundits use when describing the benefits of republics and elections.

[1] From Svolik (2012) The Politics of Authoritarian Rule, Figure 1.1, p. 5.

Keep up with CFFAD! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top