Legislative Malapportionment and institutional persistence
This paper argues that legislative malapportionment, denoting a discrepancy between the share of legislative seats and the share of population held by electoral districts, serves as a tool for predemocratic elites to preserve their political power and economic interests after a transition to democracy. We claim that legislative malapportionment enhances the pre-democratic elite’s political influence by overrepresenting areas that are more likely to vote for parties aligned with the elite. This biased political representation survives in equilibrium as long as it helps democratic consolidation. We use data from Latin America to document empirically that malapportionment increases the probability of transitioning to a democracy. Moreover, our data show that overrepresented electoral districts are more likely to vote for parties close to pre-democracy ruling groups. We also find that overrepresented areas have lower levels of political competition and they receive more transfers per capita from the central government, both of which favor the persistence of power of pre-democracy elites.
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