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Institutional Origins of Incumbency Advantage: Evidence from Legislative Elections in Kenya, 1963-2007

Posted: 28 Jan 2017  

Ken Opalo

Georgetown University

Date Written: January 26, 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, Institutional Origins of Incumbency Advantage: Evidence from Legislative Elections in Kenya, 1963-2007 (January 26, 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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