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Leader Succession and Civil War

Journal article
Authors Andrej Kokkonen
Anders Sundell
Published in Comparative Political Studies
ISSN 0010-4140
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1177/0010414019852712
Keywords civil war, non-democratic regimes
Subject categories Political Science

Abstract

Leadership succession is a perennial source of instability in autocratic regimes. Despite this, it has remained a curiously understudied phenomenon in political science. In this article, we compile a novel and comprehensive dataset on civil war in Europe and combine it with data on the fate of monarchs in 28 states over 800 years to investigate how autocratic succession affected the risk of civil war. Exploiting the natural deaths of monarchs to identify exogenous variation in successions, we find that successions substantially increased the risk of civil war. The risk of succession wars could, however, be mitigated by hereditary succession arrangements (i.e., primogeniture—the principle of letting the oldest son inherit the throne). When hereditary monarchies replaced elective monarchies in Europe, succession wars declined drastically. Our results point to the importance of the succession, and the institutions governing it, for political stability in autocratic regimes. © The Author(s) 2019.

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