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Popular Dictatorships: Crises, Mass Opinion, and the Rise of Electoral Authoritarianism, Aleksander Matovski

Reviewed by Hannah S. Chapman
 

In Popular Dictatorships, Alexander Matovski examines the emergence and durability of electoral authoritarian regimes in societies undergoing political, social, or economic turmoil. Strongman electoral autocracies, he argues, are uniquely able to leverage shared collective trauma and to provide credibility to claims that a hybrid system—one which exists between open democracy and closed authoritarianism—is “the safest and most pragmatic governing system for troubled societies” (73). These hybrid regimes profess to offer the best of both worlds and focus their legitimation efforts on the premise that they are most suited to maintaining order and stability.

While Matovski situates his argument as a corrective to the literature on electoral authoritarianism, this book fits well with the robust scholarly examination of popular support, legitimacy, and legitimation in authoritarian regimes. Popular Dictatorships provides a compelling theory of how electoral authoritarian regimes balance between more traditional authoritarian tactics, such as coercion and cooptation, and mass support. In doing so, this book will be of interest to audiences interested in the emergence of electoral authoritarian regimes, the ways in which they maintain power, and the reasons they may fall.

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