Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Strategies of Secession and Counter-Secession

Justifying term limit violations: How did the authoritarian regimes in Burundi and Rwanda learn from past regional successes and failures?

Comparative Politics
Julia Grauvogel
German Institute of Global And Area Studies
Julia Grauvogel
German Institute of Global And Area Studies

Recent scholarship has increasingly examined the international dimensions of authoritarian rule. While the literature has pointed to authoritarian regime learning with respect to the use of repression, co‐optation, and institutional reform, it has only rarely analysed the (purposeful) adaptation of legitimation discourses in that respect. Over the past decade, studies have shown how authoritarian regimes refer to elections as a means of legitimising their rule. Such legitimation strategies risk losing their appeal when regimes visibly break rule‐based mechanisms for handing over power.

This paper examines how authoritarian regimes justify the non-compliance with term limits in Sub-Saharan Africa and how the resulting adaptation of legitimation strategies provides blueprints for other regimes facing similar challenges. Conceptually, it builds on the emerging work on authoritarian regime learning to differentiate ‘learning through exchange’ that requires direct interaction of the respective regimes from ‘learning by example’ that can occur without such collaboration. Using the cases of Burundi and Rwanda, I then trace how the regimes justified the breach of term limits against the backdrop of their procedure-based legitimation narrative and how they have learned from previous – successful as well as failed – attempts of other countries in the region to rationalise the extension of term limits.
Share this page