*This seminar has been cancelled. Apologies for any inconvenience.*
Speaker: Regina Bateson, Assistant Professor of Political Science, MIT
Moderator: Steven Levitsky, Professor of Government, Department of Government, Harvard University
When autocracies become democracies, former authoritarian leaders leaders often continue to play an outsize role in political life. With surprising frequency, ex-dictators found parties, run for office, and win elections. How do former autocrats reinvent themselves as democratic politicians, and why do citizens vote for them? Political scientists have theorized that former authoritarian leaders face electoral challenges, but their past also confers some unique advantages. I evaluate these theories with a close examination of the case of Guatemala's Efraín Ríos Montt. Despite having presided over the killing of tens of thousands of his own citizens during the Guatemalan civil war, Ríos Montt quickly emerged as the most popular and influential politician in post-war, democratic Guatemala. What role did Ríos Montt's dictatorial past play in his subsequent career as a democratic politician? How did one of the world's most notorious human rights abusers enjoy such electoral successes, even among his former victims?
Regina Bateson is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at MIT. She came to MIT in July 2013, after completing her PhD at Yale University. She studies comparative politics, with interests in crime, violence, civil wars, policing, and informal institutions. Regina was previously a Foreign Service Officer for the US Department of State.