Deterrence and Compellence in the Parliament
87 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2021
In most countries, Parliamentary immunity protects lawmakers from civil or criminal charges while in office, and it shields them from prosecution for their political speech or political actions. This paper presents the first empirical analysis in the literature of the impact of Parliamentary immunity on the behavior and performance of politicians. Leveraging a Constitutional Amendment, the adoption of which lifted the immunity of 24 percent of the Members of the Turkish Parliament (MPs), we find that losing immunity from prosecution pacifies the MPs of the opposition parties, who become less diligent in the Parliament (drafting fewer pieces of legislation, initiating fewer investigation inquiries, delivering fewer and shorter speeches) and become less aggressive (interrupting other MPs less frequently). They also reduce their tendency to cast dissenting votes against the government. These MPs are less likely to get re-nominated by their parties in the next election, and they are less likely to get re-elected. The loss of immunity has no impact on the MPs of the government MPs. There is no evidence that the MPs, who retained immunity, have increased their Parliamentary efforts in reaction to their same-party colleagues losing immunity. We find that laws are passed faster after the Constitutional Amendment was adopted, possibly as a consequence of reduced opposition and deliberation. Using Eurobarometer surveys, we find that citizens’ reactions to the revocation of MP immunity are polarized. An individual’s trust in the Parliament is lower or higher based on whether an MP from the individual’s province lost immunity and if that MP subscribes to the same or opposing ideology as the individual.
Keywords: Political Immunity, Parliament, Politician effort, elections, deterrence, prosecution
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation