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The comparative democratization literature is divided on the effects of multiparty elections in non - democratic regimes. Early analyses assumed that elections would lead to democracy, yet more recent studies highlight that elections may serve as a stabilizing tool, enabling incumbents to distribute patronage and coopt the opposition. Analyzing the case of Uganda and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) rule from 1986 through Uganda's third multiparty elections February 18 2016, we argue that multiparty elections may have both a stabilizing and destabilizing effect on non - democratic rule. During its 30 - year rule, NRM and President Museveni have presided over three different institutional arrangements. The decision to introduce multiparty elections in 2005 was a response to decaying no - party rule. Through three electoral cycles (2006, 2011, 2016) multiparty elections have stabilized the regime in the short - to - medium turn, in particular through tight control of rural voters and manipulation of local government structures created and maintained in a “no - party ” setting. However, the same mechanisms that have contributed to this stability have also resulted in institutional erosion and decay as the NRM struggles with succession politics and the changing nature of the electorate. While the effect of voluntarily institutionalizing multi - party electoral competition might be to stabilize the regime, the long - term consequences might be opposite.

Lise Rakner

Professor at University of Bergen and Affiliated Research Professor