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Legislative Independence and Incumbent Electoral Advantage: Evidence from Parliamentary Elections in Kenya

46 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2017 Last revised: 21 Dec 2017

Ken Opalo

Georgetown University

Date Written: December 20, 2017

Abstract

What explains the observed incumbency effects in emerging democracies? Unlike their counterparts in advanced democracies, legislative incumbents in emerging democracies are disadvantaged. Existing research attributes this to “endemic voter discontent,” arguing that the preponderance of venal and low quality incumbents incentivize voters’ preference for high turnovers in legislative elections. This paper provides a different, albeit complementary, explanation. With new data comprising 8,188 candidate-level observations from Kenya, and employing a regression discontinuity design, I show that the electoral impact of a legislator’s incumbency status is conditional on legislative strength. In particular, strong legislatures produce electorally strong incumbents. Therefore, legislative weakness in emerging democracies partially explains the observed incumbency disadvantage in these contexts.

Keywords: Kenya, Legislative Elections, Africa, Incumbency Advantage, Political Economy, Legislatures, Parliaments

JEL Classification: F63, B25, D02, E02, O43

Suggested Citation

Opalo, Ken, Legislative Independence and Incumbent Electoral Advantage: Evidence from Parliamentary Elections in Kenya (December 20, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2906382 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2906382

K. Ochieng' Opalo (Contact Author)

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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