In competitive authoritarian systems, aspiring autocrats must win elections and marginalize the political opposition. In Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko’s strategy for political hegemony heavily relied on socioeconomic co-optation, offering privileges to supporters and imposing sanctions on dissenters. In an economy dominated by the state, co-optation had a coercive effect on behavior. Without sizable areas of activity autonomous from the government, citizens could not defy or mitigate the cost of reprisals for openly supporting the political opposition. Through co-optation, Lukashenko weakened the opposition and built an authoritarian regime without resorting to extensive political violence, which could have undermined his claim of public legitimacy.

You do not currently have access to this content.