Redistribution and Reelection under Proportional Representation: The Postwar Italian Chamber of Deputies
We study incumbency advantage and the electoral returns to pork and patronage over ten legislative periods from 1948 to 1992 for two political parties — the Christian Democrats (DC) and the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) — in Italy’s lower house of representatives, the Chamber of Deputies. Adapting a regression discontinuity design to Italy’s open-list system of proportional representation, we show that parliament comprised two groups: a small elite, whose members enjoyed an incumbency advantage, and the average deputy, who benefitted from no such incumbency advantage. Elite legislators affiliated with Italy’s two main parties of government received significantly more preference votes when pork and patronage were steered to their districts, although the effect is small. We interpret this to indicate that their incumbency advantage was linked to their ability to claim credit for these allocations. We also show that the two parties won more list votes when districts received more resources and that when districts received more resources, the abilities of these parties to persuade their electors to use preference votes improved. This form of electoral mobilization, in turn, enlarged the number of ministerial positions secured by the district. Our analysis depicts a political environment severely segmented between a small, powerful elite group of deputies and backbenchers.
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