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The Political Economy of Constitutional Choice: A Study of the 2005 Kenyan Constitutional Referendum

  • Mwangi S. Kimenyi

    (University of Connecticut)

  • William F. Shughart II

    (University of Mississippi)

Recent studies of the linkages between the wealth of nations and the institutions of governance suggest that concentrating political power in a monarchy or a ruling coalition impedes economic growth and, moreover, that while power-diffusing reforms can enhance the wellbeing of society in general, opposition by groups benefitting from the status quo is predictable. In November 2005, Kenyans rejected a proposed constitution that, despite promises made by their new chief executive, would not have lessened the powers of the presidency. Using a unique, constituency-level dataset on the referendum vote, we estimate a model of the demand for power diffusion and find that ethnic groups' voting decisions are influenced by their expected gains and losses from constitutional change. The results also highlights the importance of ethnic divisions in hindering the power-diffusion process, and thus establish a channel through which ethnic fragmentation adversely impacts economic development.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2008-08.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2008-08
Note: We benefitted from the comments of participants in economics department seminars at the University of Mississippi, the University of Connecticut and at Oxford University's Center for the Study of African Economies. Thanks to John Colon, Krishna Ladha, Simona Tick, Mark Van Boening, Steve Ross, Christian Zimmermann, Dennis Heffley, Hui-chen Wang and, especially, the Kenyan members of the audience attending a BB\&T Lecture at West Virginia University. Brandon Ramsey's research assistance also is gratefully acknowledged. As is customary, however, the authors nevertheless accept full responsibility for any and all errors.
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