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Democracy’s Achilles Heel or, How to Win an Election without Really Trying


  • Paul Collier
  • Anke Hoeffler


In this paper we investigate the efficacy of illicit electoral tactics and the characteristics which make a society prone to such tactics. We first investigate the chances of an incumbent head of government winning an election. We find that in those elections in which illicit tactics were prevalent the chances of incumbent victory increase substantially, more than doubling the expected duration in office. Further, illicit tactics sharply reduce the importance of good economic performance for survival in office. We then investigate what makes a society prone to illicit electoral tactics. Both structural conditions and institutions matter. Societies that are small, low-income, and resource-rich have little chance of a clean election unless these conditions are offset by checks and balances such as veto points and a free press. Aid has offsetting effects, the net effect being modest. We show that these results are robust to different measures of the conduct of elections and to fixed effects. Finally, we revisit the Jones-Olken result that individual leaders matter for economic performance and find that it holds only where leaders are not disciplined by well-conducted elections.

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  • Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler, 2009. "Democracy’s Achilles Heel or, How to Win an Election without Really Trying," CSAE Working Paper Series 2009-08, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2009-08

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2005. "Do Leaders Matter? National Leadership and Growth Since World War II," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 835-864.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Wahman & Matthias Basedau, 2015. "Electoral Rentierism? The Cross-National and Subnational Effect of Oil on Electoral Competitiveness in Multiparty Autocracies," GIGA Working Paper Series 272, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.

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