Star Search: Do Elections Help Nondemocratic Regimes Identify New Leaders?

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A commonly proffered theory to explain the use of elections in authoritarian regimes is that they help identify talented young leaders who can be groomed for leadership positions. Unfortunately, due to the difficulties of obtaining data in authoritarian settings, this hypothesis has not been tested satisfactorily. We examine candidate-level data from the 2007 Vietnamese National Assembly (VNA) election and subsequent selection of candidates for top positions within the VNA and for top ministry positions. We find no evidence that vote share is associated with promotion to leadership positions in the VNA and only limited evidence for vote share association with ministerial posts. Instead, the results indicate that leadership selection takes place within the party rather than through elections. Furthermore, behavior within the assembly suggests that those who were chosen may have been selected based on their loyalty or at least pliancy to the party elites.





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Malesky, EJ, and P Schuler (2013). Star Search: Do Elections Help Nondemocratic Regimes Identify New Leaders?. Journal of East Asian Studies, 13(01). pp. 35–68. 10.1017/S1598240800008523 Retrieved from

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Edmund Malesky

Professor of Political Science

Malesky is a specialist on Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam. Currently, Malesky's research agenda is very much at the intersection of Comparative and International Political Economy, falling into three major categories: 1) Authoritarian political institutions and their consequences; 2) The political influence of foreign direct investment and multinational corporations; and 3) Political institutions, private business development, and formalization.

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