Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Political Science

First Advisor

Dion, Douglas

First Committee Member

Boehmke, Frederick

Second Committee Member

Lust, Ellen

Third Committee Member

Riezman, Raymond

Fourth Committee Member

Spoon, Jae-Jae


Authoritarian elections present a dilemma for opposition political parties. Should the opposition participate in elections that are largely unfair? Should the opposition boycott the elections or resort to extra-electoral means? What explains the choice of strategy among key opponents of a regime? The goal of this project is to further our understanding of the opposition's strategic choices in authoritarian elections. Focusing on a strategy - boycotting - that occurs more often under authoritarian regimes, this dissertation builds a framework for understanding the set of strategies adopted by opposition parties in authoritarian elections. In particular, I develop an incomplete information model of opposition strategies to explain when opposition forces willingly participate in elections, when they engage in an electoral boycott. The predictions of the model are evaluated with both qualitative and quantitative methods. I first examine the predictions of the model using case studies of Jordan and Algeria, constructing narratives of elections and opposition strategies in each country. Second, I test the propositions derived from the model cross-nationally using a unique dataset of every national-level election (both parliamentary and presidential) held between 1990 and 2008. A central argument of the dissertation is that the opposition's perceptions of regime legitimacy are an important determinant of its strategic decisions. Specifically, this dissertation demonstrates how changes in the opposition's beliefs concerning the legitimacy of the regime drive changes in the strategies adopted.


Algeria, Boycott, Electoral Authoritarian, Jordan


ix, 215 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 208-215).


Copyright 2011 Gail Buttorff