What explains authoritarian success and failure in Central Asia? : Exploring regime stability, economic performance, and governance strategies

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202007093722
Title: What explains authoritarian success and failure in Central Asia? : Exploring regime stability, economic performance, and governance strategies
Author: Pietiläinen, Pihla
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Politiikan ja talouden tutkimuksen laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies (2010-2017)
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för politik och ekonomi
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202007093722
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/317580
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Yleinen valtio-oppi, maailmanpolitiikan tutkimus
Political Science, World Politics
Allmän statslära, forskning i världspolitik
Abstract: This Master’s thesis seeks to explain the reasons why some autocratic regimes remain stable for long periods of time, whereas others experience greater degrees of instability. The task is approached through a comparative case study approach, where three Central Asian countries that share multiple historical and cultural characteristics but differ in their outcomes are compared with one another. The theoretical background of the thesis encompasses well-established theories on governance strategies and legitimation, which are then evaluated against the Central Asian example. Three countries, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan were selected for the case study. The economic and social characteristics of these countries, as well as the governance strategies adopted by their regimes, were then evaluated in detail. The sources utilized in the analysis included economic and demographic data from the World Bank, survey data from the World Values Survey and reports from international organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Freedom House. Previous scholarship was also consulted. It was discovered that many different mechanisms have kept incumbents in power in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The leaders of both countries have been successful in promoting a narrative of themselves as guarantors of stability, largely accounting for their docile populations. Kazakhstan, with its extensive oil wealth, has been able to co-opt both elites and significant sectors of the population. Uzbekistan has also benefitted from more modest resource wealth, which has facilitated the co-optation of neopatrimonial support networks, as well as the devotion of resources to state security apparatus. More limited resources have, however, forced the Uzbek regime to rely on coercion more extensively. The thesis concludes with the finding that authoritarian failure is a sum of unfavourable circumstances and poor decision making on the part of the autocrat, especially when elite networks are neglected. Like its neighbours, Kyrgyzstan’s presidents have largely depended on neopatrimonial networks for support. The limited resources available to the regime, however, as well as their excessive concentration in the hands of the president’s immediate family, contributed to elite defections both in 2005 and 2010. These disaffected elites were then able to mobilise large sections of the disillusioned population, suffering both economic hardship and frustration with the corrupt regime. Lacking the coercive capabilities to suppress these uprisings, presidents Akaev and Bakiyev had no option but to step down in 2005 and 2010, respectively.
Subject: Authoritarianism
Central Asia
Regime stability
Governance strategies


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