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Breaking the wave of democracy: The effect of foreign aid on the incumbent’s re-election probability


  • Grégoire ROTA-GRAZIOSI

    () (Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches sur le Développement International(CERDI))

  • Clémence VERGNE




We investigate whether foreign aid affects the probability of incumbent’s re-election and then the Schumpeterian quality of democracy in developing countries. We present a simple theoretical framework, which captures the competitiveness of elections through the Tullock’s approach based on the Contest Success Function. We obtain an ambiguous theoretical effect of foreign aid on the incumbent probability to be reelected: Foreign aid increases the prize of the electoral contest stimulating the challenger to increase his campaign effort; But, the incumbent may divert part of the aid, improving his advantage and reducing political competition. We investigate empirically this effect using panel data from 60 aid-recipient countries between 1980 and 2005. Our analysis shows that foreign aid increases the incumbent’s re-election probabilities. However, this effect depends on recipients’ democratic level and on the nature of foreign aid, consistently with our theoretical framework. While financial aid increases the probability of incumbent’s re-election, political aid, especially through assistances in developing competitive electoral systems, reduces this probability.

Suggested Citation

  • Grégoire ROTA-GRAZIOSI & Clémence VERGNE & Blanca MORENO DODSON, 2012. "Breaking the wave of democracy: The effect of foreign aid on the incumbent’s re-election probability," Working Papers 201231, CERDI.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdi:wpaper:1379

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    Cited by:

    1. Antoine Cazals & Alexandre Sauquet, 2015. "How do elections affect international cooperation? Evidence from environmental treaty participation," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 162(3), pages 263-285, March.
    2. Alexandre SAUQUET & Antoine CAZALS, 2013. "When does cooperation win and why? Political cycles and participation in international environmental agreements," Working Papers 201320, CERDI.

    More about this item


    Foreign aid; Elections; Incumbent’s advantage;

    JEL classification:

    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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