This article accounts for how authoritarian regimes use elections to achieve stability (and, thus, longevity). At the domestic level, elections are deployed to either feign conformity to established rules and/or shared beliefs about how political power should be maintained or mobilise citizens in a unanimous show of manufactured support for the ruling party. At the international level, elections are employed to simulate compliance to international democratic norms about the appropriate method of selecting political authority. It validates this theory using the case of Myanmar, where three different ruling cliques have sanctioned elections in the pursuit of this dividend. The institutionalisation of this function over time has in turn contributed to the stabilisation of autocratic rule, which has occurred through a combination of endogenous self-reinforcement, exogenous reinforcement and reciprocal reinforcement. This positive relationship offers further opportunities for within-case and cross-case comparisons to be made in the future.
Axel Hadenius and Jan Teorell, ‘Pathways from authoritarianism’, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 18, No. 1 (2007), pp. 143–157; Barbara Geddes, Joseph Wright and Erica Frantz, ‘Autocratic breakdown and regime transitions: a new data set’, Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 12, No. 2 (2014), pp. 313–331.
Seymour Lipset, Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics (New York: Anchor Books, 1963); Rodney Barker, Political Legitimacy and the State (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990); Muthiah Alagappa, Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995).
Rick Fawn, ‘Battle over the box: international election observation missions, political competition and retrenchment in the post-Soviet space’, International Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 6 (2006), pp. 1133–1153; Michaela Mattes and Mariana Rodriguez, ‘Autocracies and international cooperation’, International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 58, No. 3 (2014), pp. 527–538.
Revolutionary Council, The Burmese Way to Socialism: Policy Declaration of the Revolutionary Council (Rangoon: Information Deptartment for the Council, 1962), p. i. On the role of ideology in Myanmar during this era, see Fred Mehden, ‘The Burmese way to socialism’, Asian Survey, Vol. 3, No. 3 (1963), pp. 129–135; Josef Silverstein, Burma: Military Rule and the Politics of Stagnation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977); David Steinberg, Burma: A Socialist Nation of Southeast Asia (Boulder: Westview Press, 1982); Jon Wiant, Lanzin: Ideology and Organization in Revolutionary Burma (Ithaca, Cornell University, 1982). On the role of ideology under Marxist-Leninism, see Philip Selznick, The Organizational Weapon: A Study of Bolshevik Strategy and Tactics (Glencoe: Free Press, 1960).