Ruling Parties in Authoritarian Regimes: Rethinking Institutional Strength.

British Journal of Political Science: 1–15


A key finding in the literature on authoritarian regimes is that leaders frequently rely on ruling parties to stay in power, but the field lacks systematic ways to measure autocratic party strength. As a result, it is not clear how often ruling parties are actually strong and capable of carrying out important functions. This article demonstrates that strong ruling parties are much rarer than is typically assumed. Using a global sample of dictatorships from 1946–2008, the author shows that most ruling parties are unable to survive the death or departure of the founding leader. This is true even of many ruling parties that have been coded as leading single-party regimes. While strong parties may be key to durable authoritarianism, relatively few parties are truly strong.