The rise predicts the fall: how the method of leader entry affects the method of leader removal in dictatorships

Jun Koga Sudduth, Curtis Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
77 Downloads (Pure)


How does the way a non-democratic leader takes power affect the stability of her government? Prior research identifies irregular leader entries—those violating the regime's norms for leader selection—to be especially likely to foreshadow subsequent unconstitutional transitions. This paper shows how some forms of irregular leader entry can actually protect leaders from most threats of forced removal from power. When leaders use a strong and loyal coalition of supporters to overthrow their predecessors and their entire ruling regimes, as they do in successful rebellions, popular uprisings, and major regime changing coups, they explicitly prove their strength to any potential rivals. These leaders are substantially less likely to be ousted than leaders who take power in ways that do not convey strength so convincingly, such as normal succession and elite reshuffling. We analyze an original dataset of non democratic leader transitions and show that accounting for the strength demonstrated during a leader’s entry to power substantially improves our ability to predict how and when the leader will eventually leave office.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-159
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2018


  • dictatorships
  • political leaders
  • non-democratic
  • removal from power
  • coups
  • irregular regime replacement
  • irregular regime reorganization


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