Incomplete Political Contracts with Secret Ballots: Reciprocity as a Force to Enforce Sustainable Clientelistic Relationships
53 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2020
Date Written: June 9, 2020
Clientelism is frequently observed in our societies. Various mechanisms that help sustain incomplete political contracts (e.g., monitoring and punishment) have been studied in the literature to date. However, do such contracts emerge in elections with secret ballots when the interactions are one-shot? How does repetition affect the evolution of incomplete political contracts? Using an incentivized experiment, this paper finds that even during one-shot interactions where monitoring is not possible, candidates form incomplete contracts through vote buying and promise-making. The candidates’ clientelistic behaviors are heterogeneous: some target swing voters, whereas others offer the most to loyal voters, or even opposition voters. These tactics distort voting behaviors as well as election outcomes. Repeated interactions significantly magnify candidates’ offers and deepen clientelistic relationships. These results underscore the possibility that clientelism evolves due to people’s strategic behaviors and interdependent preferences, without relying on alternative mechanisms.
Keywords: experiment, cooperation, vote buying, election, clientelism
JEL Classification: C92, D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation