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Cover Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes

7. Authoritarian Instability and Breakdown  

This chapter details the factors that increase the prospects of authoritarian regime failure. In-depth accounts of the downfall of specific authoritarian regimes show that it is most often a confluence of risk factors that bring down regimes. It is important to underscore that problems in dictatorships may persist for years without leading to breakdown. Authoritarian regimes can and often do persist in the face of elite divisions and defections, poor socio-economic conditions, corruption, and demographic challenges such as youth bulges. Such long-term factors increase a regime's risk of collapse by reducing a government's resilience to other short-term factors that often initiate its downfall. These short-term ‘triggering events’ include economic crises, fraudulent elections, and natural disasters. The chapter then considers how external forces—such as foreign aid, sanctions, and diffusion—can cause authoritarian breakdown.