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How Autocrats Compete: Parties, Patrons and Unfair Elections in Africa, Yonatan L. Morse

Reviewed by Michaela Collord

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Why can some electoral authoritarian regimes remain cohesive while others suffer elite defections? Why do some regimes win elections with comparative ease while others rely on manipulation and violence? In his highly original comparative study of three African cases, Yonatan L. Morse explores the diverse ways that authoritarians compete. His rich historical analysis traces how legacies of authoritarian party building—coupled with variation in international patronage—shape the electoral strategies of authoritarian incumbents in a multiparty era. The result is a contextually sensitive analysis of authoritarian diversity and, as such, an important contribution to both the comparative politics and Africanist literatures.

In identifying his outcome of interest, Morse differentiates several types of electoral authoritarian competition, selecting his case studies to ensure representation of each. Tanzania with its ruling party—the Tanganyika African National Union, later rechristened Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM)—stands out as a “tolerant hegemony,” a regime that enjoys strong electoral support without resorting to manipulation. The rule of the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement, meanwhile, exemplifies a “repressive hegemony,” a regime that uses a high level of electoral manipulation but, in exchange, wins a high vote

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