The incumbent, challenger, and population during revolution and civil war

Kjell Hausken, Mthuli Ncube


We consider revolutions and civil war involving an incumbent, a challenger, and the population. Revolutions are classified into eight outcomes. In four outcomes incumbent repression occurs (viewed as providing sub-threshold benefits such as public goods to the population). Accommodation occurs in the other four outcomes (benefits provision above a threshold). The incumbent and challenger fight each other. The incumbent may win and retain power or else lose, thereby causing standoff or coalition. In a standoff, which is costly, no one backs down and uncertainty exists about who is in power. In a coalition, which is less costly, the incumbent and challenger cooperate, compromise, and negotiate their differences. If the population successfully revolts against the incumbent, the challenger replaces the incumbent. Eighty-seven revolutions during 1961–2011, including the recent Arab spring revolutions, are classified into the eight outcomes. When repressive, the incumbent loses 46 revolutions, remains in power through 21 revolutions, and builds a coalition after 12 revolutions. When accommodative, the incumbent loses seven revolutions and builds a coalition after one revolution. The 87 revolutions are classified across geographic regions and by time-period.


Revolution; civil war; fighting; accommodation; incumbent; challenger; conflict

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