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 competitionBarriers to candidacyBallot accessLegislatorsElectionsPakistan