Autocrats, selectorates and economic growth
What is the UAE's selectorate? Is it secure in the sense described by Tim Besley and Masa Kudamatsu?
Autocrats typically rely on key groups to stay in power. This could be a party structure or the military or a close group of allies. Concerted action by this group may, in principle, depose the leader. Following recent work, we refer to this group as the “selectorate” as opposed to the “electorate” in democracies.Recall how the UAE's founding father came to power in Abu Dhabi - the family deposed his brother because of his economic outlook. Comparisons between Gulf States on this score would, I suspect, be illuminating.
In the absence of elections, it is important to focus on what incentive this group has to support leaders that foster good policies. As citizens, this group will tend to benefit from economic prosperity. But, equally they are likely to enjoy some trappings of power by having allied themselves with the leader. If deposing the leader threatens these benefits, they may be reluctant to do so. This leads us to predict that secure selectorates will tend to create performance-related incentives for their leaders and would be willing to remove the leader from office if he does not perform well. Selectorates whose own hold on power is closely tied to a specific leader are willing to preside over bad policy.