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Not all dictators are equal: coups, fraudulent elections, and the selective targeting of democratic sanctions

[journal article]

Soest, Christian von; Wahmann, Michael

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Abstract Since the end of the Cold War, Western powers have frequently used sanctions to fight declining levels of democracy and human rights violations abroad. However, some of the world’s most repressive autocracies have never been subjected to sanctions, while other more competitive authoritarian regimes have been exposed to repeated sanction episodes. In this article, we concentrate on the cost–benefit analysis of Western senders that issue democratic sanctions, those which aim to instigate democratization, against authoritarian states. We argue that Western leaders weight domestic and international pressure to impose sanctions against the probability of sanction success and the sender’s own political and economic costs. Their cost–benefit calculus is fundamentally influenced by the strength of trigger events indicating infringements of democratic and human rights. Western sanction senders are most likely to respond to coups d’e´tat, the most drastic trigger events, and tend to sanction vulnerable targets to a higher extent than stable authoritarian regimes. Senders are also more likely to sanction poor targets less integrated in the global economy and countries that do not align with the Western international political agenda, especially in responding to ‘weaker’ trigger events such as controversial elections. The analysis is carried out using a new dataset of US and EU sanctions against authoritarian states in the period 1990–2010.
Keywords authoritarian system; political regime; dictatorship; political sanction; cost-benefit analysis; Western world; United States of America; EU; democratization; international politics
Classification Political Process, Elections, Political Sociology, Political Culture; International Relations, International Politics, Foreign Affairs, Development Policy
Free Keywords raudulent elections; imposition; sanctions; trigger events; vulnerability
Document language English
Publication Year 2014
Page/Pages p. 1-15
Journal Journal of Peace Research (2014)
ISSN 1460-3578
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications
This publication is with permission of the rights owner freely accessible due to an Alliance licence and a national licence (funded by the DFG, German Research Foundation) respectively.