Date of Award

Fall 12-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Political Science


Political Science

Major Professor

Michael Huelshoff

Second Advisor

Christine Day

Third Advisor

Steven Mumford


How a single party and personal dictatorship survive has been a question of much debate among scholars. Geddes (1999, 2003) creates a model to determine which survives the longest. Within her model, she finds that a single party dictatorship – one with a party apparatus – survives longer than a personal dictatorship – one where a single person has sole policymaking ability. She argues that the fundamental difference between the two is how each treats the opposition. The party apparatus allows a single party dictatorship the means to silence the opposition by coopting it into the party structure whereas a personal dictatorship must rely on the wealthy and military to keep any opposition at bay. With a single party dictatorship being able to coalesce the opposition, this dictatorship is more stable and survives longer. I agree with Geddes’ reasoning and seek to clarify how this situation works in Sub-Saharan Africa. I argue that a single party dictatorship can silence and use religious leaders in the opposition to gain support from the religious leaders’ followers. This additional support from the religious leaders and the followers makes single party dictatorships survive longer than personal dictatorships in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this research, I explain the importance of religion as a variable for dictatorship survival research in Sub-Saharan Africa. I show that religious leaders have a certain level of control over followers and if coopted by a dictatorship, religious leaders’ control garners support among followers. I further explain how religious leaders are in the opposition and therefore can only be coopted by a single party dictatorship. I conclude by showing that religious leaders increase a single party dictatorship’s survival likelihood.


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