35 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2012
Date Written: April 2013
Legal provisions that interfere with the arrest and prosecution of politicians exist throughout much of the modern democratic world. Why and with what eﬀects do societies choose to place their politicians above the law? We examine the institution of immunity both theoretically and empirically. Our theoretical model demonstrates that immunity is a double-edged sword; while immunity provisions protect honest politicians from politically-motivated accusations, they may also incentivize corrupt behavior and attract dishonest individuals to public oﬃce. Which eﬀect dominates depends on the quality of the judicial system. In order to empirically analyze the eﬀects of immunity provisions, we quantify the strength of immunity protection in 73 democracies. We ﬁnd empirical evidence that, though stronger immunity protection is associated with greater incidence of corruption where the judicial system is independent, this relationship has more ambiguous eﬀects where the legal system is weak and prone to politicization. These eﬀects remain after controlling for standard determinants of corruption.
Keywords: accountability, corruption, immunity, interest groups
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