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Leader Turnover, Institutions, and Voting at the UN General Assembly

Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


Using evidence from voting in the UN General Assembly (UNGA), this article shows that leader turnover, especially in small coalition, nondemocratic systems, increases the likelihood of policy realignment. Autocrats who are beholden to only a small proportion of the population represent the foreign policy interests of their small number of supporters. When leader turnover occurs, the interests represented often shift too and this results in an increased volatility and regression toward a neutral position of a nation’s alignment at the United Nations vis-à-vis the United States. While such realignments can offer an opportunity to reduce enmity between states, they can also signal growing differences between friends. The impact of leaders change in large coalitions produces more moderate shifts in alignments.