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Why Political Competition Can Increase Patronage

Abstract

Patronage is important in developing countries, but its relationship to political competition has received little attention. Major literatures generate opposing predictions. In the good governance and democracy literatures, robust political competition is the antidote to patronage. But for scholars studying the process of democratization, competitive politics is associated with heightened social tensions and instability. Using data from an original survey covering 88% of local governments in Ghana, I show that political competition can increase patronage: where local elections are closely fought by the two main parties, local governments provide significantly more public sector jobs. I use qualitative data from 9 months of fieldwork to show the causal channel. I find a bottom-up phenomenon in which pressures for patronage come from parties’ own volunteers. Volunteers actively use their parties’ vulnerability in competitive elections to extract rewards. I locate the root of volunteers’ power in the nature of the party system, and I demonstrate that for 19 African countries, variation in party system strength is linked to certain forms of clientelism. These findings challenge assumptions that competitive politics will reduce patronage, as well as assumptions that a decline in one form of clientelism means a decline in all forms of clientelism.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Author interview, 7/26/12.

  2. The average district staff size is 148 (N = 132). The average staff size in districts where the margin between the main presidential candidates was 5% or less, averaged over 2000–2012, is 172, compared to 145 above this threshold.

  3. In 2008, for example, districts spent an average of 46 percent of their non-capital expenditure on personnel.

  4. Author interview, 7/31/12. See also the dissertation research of Sigman (2015).

  5. Forthcoming work by Nichter and Peress (Forthcoming) presents a similar argument based on research in Brazil and Argentina.

  6. Clientelism is a form of non-programmatic politics in which rewards are provided over repeated interactions to individuals or groups in return for political allegiance (Kitschelt and Wilkinson 2007; Stokes et al. 2013). The major sub-types of clientelism are patronage, in which rewards are given to party members, and voter or turnout buying, in which rewards are given to voters.

  7. Author data.

  8. Author interview with Kumasi Metropolitan Chief Executive, 7/14/09.

  9. Author interview, 7/30/12.

  10. In a separate study by Weghorst and Lindberg (2013), of people eligible to vote in 1996, only 81% said they voted in the 1996, 2000, and 2004 elections.

  11. Lindberg and Morrison (2005) estimated that about 18% of their sample voted for parliamentary candidates of different parties in the 1996 and 2000 elections. However, the period under question was one of growing strength of the NPP. This can be seen in their data: 95% of their respondents said they voted for the NDC candidate in 1996 and again in 2000, compared to 73% reporting voting for the NPP in both.

  12. See also Mainwaring and Scully (1995), Kuenzi and Lambright (2001), Chhibber and Kollman (2004), and Jones and Mainwaring (2003).

  13. Research activities and variable construction are fully explained in the Online Appendix.

  14. P > 0.132.

  15. Because results could be driven by Ghana’s handful of very large districts, I estimate separately the main models without the Metropolitan Assemblies. Tables 7 and 8 show results are robust to ommitting Metropolitan Assemblies in the case of district size, though not for low-level staff. I also estimate the models using only districts in non-Akan regions. Results in Tables 9 and 10 show the estimated relationships are robust to this specification.

  16. In 2014 aid for “decentralisation and support to subnational government” was almost $1.2bn. Source: http://stats.oecd.org/qwids/.Accessed3/9/16.

  17. This is a simple Herfindahl concentration index where \(EthnicFrac= 1-{\sum }_{i=1}^{n} {s_{i}^{2}}\) where s i is the share of group i(i=1,…,n). For robustness, I also estimate models using measures of ethnic polarization rather than fractionalization, using the methodology shown in Montalvo and Reynal-Querol (2005).

  18. The standard deviation for the average NPP-NDC district margin in presidential elections from 2000 to 2012 is 6.7 percentage points.

  19. Riedl’s continuous variable builds on standard measures in Mainwaring and Scully (1995) and Mainwaring and Torcal (2006). It has three components: stability in inter-party competition, using volatility in presidential and legislative elections; parties’ rootedness in society, using lower house seats currently held by parties in existence since transition; and actors’ expectation that party competition will persist, using the quality of post-transition elections.

  20. Summary statistics are provided in Table 29.

  21. Kuenzi and Lambright (2001), Lebas (2011), Pitcher (2012), Ichino and Nathan (2012), Elischer (2013), Riedl (2014), Weghorst and Bernhard (2014), and Sigman (2015).

  22. To the best of my knowledge, only Kramon (2013) has identified a link between party system institutionalization and vote buying.

  23. I set aside for now the endogeneity of party systems to existing forms of clientelism.

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Driscoll, B. Why Political Competition Can Increase Patronage. St Comp Int Dev 53, 404–427 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12116-017-9238-x

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Keywords

  • Democracy
  • Patronage
  • Africa
  • Political parties
  • Local government