In mature democracies, elections discipline leaders to deliver good economic performance. Since the fall of the Soviet Union most developing countries also hold elections, but these are often marred by illicit tactics. Using a new global data set, this paper investigates whether these illicit tactics are merely blemishes or substantially undermine the economic efficacy of elections. We show that illicit tactics are widespread, and that they reduce the incentive for governments to deliver good economic performance. Revisiting the celebrated result that ‘leaders matter’, we show that it is dependent upon the absence of clean elections: changes of leader matter a lot in systems without clean elections, whereas in those with clean elections they are not significant.
CSAE Economics Department, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. CSAE WPS/2010-35, 30 pp.