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Authoritarian regimes in democratic regional organisations? Exploring regional dimensions of authoritarianism in an increasingly democratic West Africa

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Research suggests regional organisations ‘lock in’ their dominant political systems: democratic regionalism stabilises transitioning democracies whilst regionalism in autocratic regions is conversely associated with boosts in authoritarianism. Little research, however, has examined the regional-level trends and tactics that authoritarian leaders have sought to exploit to survive in democratising regions. This article focuses on the West Africa region which has seen considerable democratic progress over the last 20 years. However, while this progress is commendable (demonstrated by the recent transition of formerly autocratic Gambia), the consolidation process is not complete and, as in other parts of the world (such as the EU), democratic backsliding is a present risk. This article explains how authoritarian leaders have sought to use and benefited from regional dynamics in an otherwise democratising region. It suggests that both formal and informal regional interactions have at times provided benefits that support authoritarianism and suggests a typology of the mechanisms through which this can happen. It serves as a potential guide for other regions in Africa yet to democratise to the level of West Africa, and as a guide to the types of regional authoritarianism-enhancing processes that could be used to support backsliding in (west) Africa and elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Contemporary African Studies
Early online date6 Jul 2017
Publication statusEarly online - 6 Jul 2017



    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Contemporary African Studies on 06.07.2017, available online:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 417 KB, PDF document

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