Opportunistic Political Cycles: Test in a Young Democracy Setting
This paper tests the theory of opportunistic cycles in a decade-old democracy, Russia, finds strong evidence of cycles, and provides explanation for why previous literature often found weaker evidence. Using the comprehensive list of Russia's regional elections and regional monthly panel data between 1996 and 2003, we find that: (1) budget cycle is very sizable and short-lived: large expansion and contraction in fiscal spending occur within two months of elections on both sides; (2) the magnitude of the cycle decreases with government transparency, level of regional democracy, and voter awareness; (3) cycle becomes smaller over time; (4) pre-electoral manipulation increases incumbents’ chances for re-election. The results confirm theoretical findings that maturity of democracy, transparency, and voter awareness are important in determining the scope for opportunistic cycles. The short length of the cycle explains underestimation of its size by previous literature because of low frequency data used.
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