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The Single-Party Dictator's Dilemma: Information in Elections without Opposition

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Abstract

The literature on authoritarian institutions points to nationwide elections as a mechanism for learning about the preferences of citizens. In using elections in this way, however, authoritarians face a trade-off between gathering reliable information and guaranteeing electoral victory. In this article, we explore how single-party regimes manage this trade-off and the particular types of information available to them. Using candidate-level data from Vietnam, we demonstrate that single-party regimes, in particular, forsake information on overall regime support and strength of opposition in favor of information on the popularity of local notables and the compliance of local officials with central mandates. In addition, we show that ex ante electioneering is less risky than ex post fraud at achieving these goals.

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