Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 13 > Issue 4

Political Loyalty and Leader Health

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Wilf Family Department of Politics, New York University, USA, bruce.buenodemesquita@nyu.edu , Alastair Smith, Wilf Family Department of Politics, New York University, USA, alastair.smith@nyu.edu
Suggested Citation
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith (2018), "Political Loyalty and Leader Health", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 13: No. 4, pp 333-361. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00017123

Publication Date: 30 Oct 2018
© 2018 B. Bueno de Mesquita and A. Smith
Corporate governance,  Econometric models,  Econometric theory,  Nonstationary time series,  Panel data,  Robust estimation,  Health economics,  Public economics,  Economic theory,  Civil conflict,  Comparative political economy,  Comparative politics,  Democracy,  Democratization,  Formal modelling,  Game theory,  Government,  Political corruption,  Political economy,  Political participation
Selectorate theorypolitical economyinstabilityregime changeleader health


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In this article:
Illness and Political Survival 
Review of Literature 
Selectorate Politics, Leader Health and Political Survival 
Hazard Analysis 
Means of Removal 


Using a new dataset on leader health, we present and test five hypotheses derived from a selectorate theory account of how chronic illness interacts with political institutions, especially winning coalition size, to help shape the probability and timing of regular and irregular leader depositions. The analysis shows that, especially in small coalition — autocratic — political systems, the expectation that an incumbent will die soon, and so not be able to deliver future private rewards to her coalition of supporters, greatly increases the likelihood that the leader will be overthrown. The study also compares selectorate expectations with an alternative view, that sickly leaders are deposed because they can no longer produce effective policy, measured in terms of economic growth. As predicted by selectorate theory, sickly leaders significantly improve growth in an effort to stay in power for their short remaining lifetime. The analysis offers a new view on an important aspect of political instability, namely leader removal.