The political economy of constitutional choice: a study of the 2005 Kenyan constitutional referendum
Recent studies of the linkages between the wealth of nations and the institutions of governance suggest that concentrating political power in a monarchy or a ruling coalition impedes economic growth and, moreover, that while power-diffusing reforms can enhance the wellbeing of society in general, opposition by groups benefitting from the status quo is predictable. In November 2005, Kenyans rejected a proposed constitution that, despite promises made by their new chief executive, would not have lessened the powers of the presidency. Using a unique, constituency-level dataset on the referendum vote, we estimate a model of the demand for power diffusion and find that ethnic groups' voting decisions are influenced by their expected gains and losses from constitutional change. The results also highlights the importance of ethnic divisions in hindering the power-diffusion process, and thus establish a channel through which ethnic fragmentation adversely impacts economic development.
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