Public Choice

, Volume 161, Issue 1, pp 51-72

First online:

Do barriers to candidacy reduce political competition? Evidence from a bachelor’s degree requirement for legislators in Pakistan

  • Madiha AfzalAffiliated withSchool of Public Policy, University of Maryland Email author 

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In the 2002 election, candidates for Pakistan’s federal legislature had to possess at least a bachelor’s degree. This policy disqualified 60 out of the 207 incumbent legislators from running for election again. Using a difference-in-differences approach with panel data on all electoral constituencies in Pakistan, I find that this ballot access restriction does not affect political competition across all constituencies with disqualified incumbents equally. Stronger political competition is defined as a larger number of candidates contesting election, a smaller vote share and vote margin for the winning candidate, and a less concentrated candidate field, as measured by a Herfindahl–Hirschman index (HHI) of vote shares. Competition declined significantly in constituencies where the disqualified incumbent belonged to a small party and where literacy levels were lower (signifying a smaller pool of substitute candidates). However, political competition increased in areas where the disqualified incumbent was stronger in terms of his winning vote margin.


Political competition Barriers to candidacy Ballot access Legislators Elections Pakistan