Executive Turnover and the Investigation of Former Leaders in New Democracies

Donna Bahry, Young Hun Kim

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1 Scopus citations


What prompts governments in new democracies to investigate elected leaders once they leave office? Theorizing about democratic regimes suggests that leadership turnover by constitutional means should generate few such cases: democratic entry to and exit from office are thought to prompt benign treatment from successor administrations. Yet over a third of democratically elected presidents and prime ministers who left office between 1970 and 2011 have faced investigations for malfeasance. This study analyzes the conditions that generate such cases. We find that the odds of investigation rise when there is strong evidence of former leaders’ personal culpability; but also when the executive regime is presidential, and the judiciary lacks independence from other branches. Partisanship has a more limited impact: co-partisanship with the incumbent reduces the odds of investigation for ex-prime ministers, but sharing a party label with an incumbent offers no such protection to a former president.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-211
Number of pages13
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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