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Elections and Economic Policy in Developing Countries


  • Lisa Chauvet

    () (DIAL, IRD, Paris)

  • Paul Collier

    () (CSAE, Oxford)


This paper explores the impact of elections on economic policies and governance in developing countries. We distinguish between a structural effect, which increases accountability, and a cyclical effect which may be disruptive. Since the effects are offsetting, neither can be analyzed in isolation. We implement an econometric analysis on more than 80 developing countries using positive changes in the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment of the World Bank and the International Country Risk Guide as signaling improvements in economic policy and governance. We find that both structural and cyclical effects matter. The cyclical effect suggests that mid-term is the best moment for policy change. We investigate the structural effect by comparing different frequencies of elections. Except at the extremes, a higher frequency of elections improves both policy and governance net of any cyclical effect. The important exception to this benign net effect is if the electoral process is badly conducted. Badly conducted elections have no structural efficacy for policy improvement. A reasonable interpretation of our results is that honest elections increase accountability and thereby discipline governments to improve economic policy and governance, but that if candidates can win by fraud this chain is broken.________________________________ Cet article analyse l’influence des élections sur les politiques économiques et la gouvernance dans les pays en développement. Nous distinguons un effet structurel des élections – via la responsabilité politique – d’un effet cyclique potentiellement perturbateur. Puisque ces deux effets se compensent, ils ne peuvent être considérés séparément. Nous menons une analyse économétrique sur un échantillon de 80 pays en développement pour identifier l’impact des élections sur l’amélioration des politiques économiques. Nous utilisons les changements positifs du Country Policy and Institutional Assessment de la Banque mondiale et de l’International Country Risk Guide pour saisir les améliorations des politiques économiques et de la gouvernance. Nous trouvons que l’effet structurel et l’effet cyclique des élections sont tous deux importants. L’effet cyclique des élections suggère que les améliorations de politiques économiques sont plus probables à mi-mandat. Nous utilisons la fréquence des élections pour saisir leur effet structurel. Il semble que des élections fréquentes améliorent la qualité des politiques économiques et de la gouvernance, une fois pris en compte leur effet cyclique. Une exception importante à cet effet structurel positif concerne les élections dont le processus est mal mené : elles n’ont dans ce cas pas d’effet structurel positif. Il semble donc que des élections honnêtes augmentent la responsabilité politique des gouvernements et les incitent ainsi à améliorer les politiques économiques et la gouvernance ; mais si le candidat peut gagner par fraude, cette chaine est rompue.

Suggested Citation

  • Lisa Chauvet & Paul Collier, 2008. "Elections and Economic Policy in Developing Countries," Working Papers DT/2008/11, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
  • Handle: RePEc:dia:wpaper:dt200811

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:taf:jdevst:v:52:y:2016:i:1:p:72-91 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Clémence VERGNE, 2009. "Turnout in Developing Countries: The Effect of Mass Media on National Voter Participation," Working Papers 200929, CERDI.
    3. Armey, Laura E. & McNab, Robert M., 2012. "Democratization and civil war," MPRA Paper 42460, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Smets,Lodewijk & Knack,Stephen, 2015. "World Bank policy lending and the quality of public sector governance," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7267, The World Bank.
    5. Prichard, Wilson, 2016. "Electoral Competitiveness, Tax Bargaining and Political Incentives in Developing Countries: Evidence from Political Budget Cycles Affecting Taxation," Working Papers 13713, Institute of Development Studies, International Centre for Tax and Development.
    6. Paul Collier & Pedro Vicente, 2012. "Violence, bribery, and fraud: the political economy of elections in Sub-Saharan Africa," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 153(1), pages 117-147, October.
    7. Olivier Sterck, 2015. "Fighting for votes: theory and evidence on the causes of electoral violence," CSAE Working Paper Series 2015-19-2, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    8. Dercon, Stefan & Gutiérrez-Romero, Roxana, 2012. "Triggers and Characteristics of the 2007 Kenyan Electoral Violence," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 731-744.

    More about this item


    Elections; economic policy; developing countries; politique économique; pays en développement;

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism


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