Electoral Security and Legislator Attention: Evidence from the Kenyan National Assembly Debates, 2008-2017
47 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2019
Date Written: December 20, 2019
How do African legislators divide their attention between the demands of their local constituency and their responsibilities in national parliament? Majority of studies portrays African legislators as mere rubber-stamping constituency servants. I show instead significant variation in legislator attention. Building on the literature on the electoral origins of legislator behavior, I argue that electoral pressure faced by individual legislators heavily conditions their decisions about how to allocate effort between local and national priorities. Using a novel dataset of more than 56,000 speeches made by over 400 unique legislators in the Kenyan National Assembly from 2008 to 2017, I develop speech-based measures of local versus national attention. I show that Kenyan legislators in less competitive constituencies speak more in national parliament, suggesting a greater commitment to national policymaking. Moreover, when I disaggregate data by type of speech, I find that electorally vulnerable legislators engage in locally oriented speeches, whereas those with security speak more about national topics. Speech data thus reveals an interesting tension within democratizing countries: greater democracy on one dimension – contestation – may ironically create barriers to increasing democracy on a different dimension – horizontal accountability.
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