Strength in Expectation. Elections, Economic Performance and Authoritarian Breakdown. (forthcoming, The Journal of Politics) [Text+Appendix] [Text only][Appendix only] [Replication data]
How do elections and the economy affect authoritarian survival? Distinguishing between (a) non-election periods in autocracies that do not hold competitive elections; (b) election periods in autocracies that hold regular elections; and (c) non-election periods in such autocracies, I argue that bad economic performance makes authoritarian regimes especially likely to break down in election years, but the anticipation of competitive elections should dissuade citizens and elites from engaging in anti-regime behavior in non-election periods, facilitating short-term survival. Thus, compared to regimes that do not hold competitive elections, electoral autocracies should be more vulnerable to bad economic performance in election periods but more resilient to it in non-election years. A study of 258 authoritarian regimes between 1948 and 2011 confirms these expectations. I also find that the effect is driven by competitive elections for the executive office, and elections-related breakdowns are more likely to result in democratization.
The Effect of District Magnitude on Electoral Outcomes. Evidence from Two Natural Experiments in Argentina. (forthcoming, British Journal of Political Science) [Online Appendix] [Replication data]
How does district magnitude affect electoral outcomes? This paper addresses this question by exploiting a combination of two natural experiments in Argentina between 1985 and 2015. Argentine provinces elect half of their congressional delegation every two years, and thus districts with an odd number of representatives have varying magnitudes in different election years. Furthermore, whether a province elects more representatives in midterm or concurrent years was decided by lottery in 1983. The results indicate that district magnitude (a) increases electoral support for small parties, (b) increases the (effective) number of parties getting seats, and (c) reduces electoral disproportionality. The last two results are driven by the mechanical rather than the psychological effect of electoral rules.
Jumping Ship or Jumping on the Bandwagon: When Do Local Politicians Support National Candidates? (with Guillermo Rosas) (forthcoming, Political Science Research and Methods) [Replication data]
Local politicians are often expected to mobilize voters on behalf of copartisan candidates for national office. Yet this requirement is difficult to enforce because the effort of local politicians cannot be easily monitored and the promise of rewards in exchange for help is not fully credible. Using a formal model, we show that the incentives of local politicians to mobilize voters on behalf of their party depend on the proportion of copartisan officials in a district. Having many copartisan officials means that the party is more likely to capture the district, but the effort of each local politician is less likely either to be noticed by higher-level officials or to make a difference on the election outcome, thus discouraging lower-level officials from exerting effort. We validate these claims with data from federal elections in Mexico between 2000 and 2012. In line with the argument, the results show that political parties fail to draw great mobilization advantages from simultaneously controlling multiple offices.
With a Little Help from the Opposition? The Removal of Executive Term Limits in the Argentine Provinces, 1983-2017, Journal of Politics in Latin America, 9(3), 2017, pp. 49-90. (with María Gabriela Almaraz)
How do incumbents manage to relax term limits when they cannot impose their preferences unilaterally? Interpreting constitutional reforms as a bargaining game between a term-limited executive and the opposition, we argue that reforms involving term limits should be more likely when (a) the incumbent party can change the constitution unilaterally; or (b) the opposition is pessimistic about its future electoral prospects. Moreover, (c) this second effect should be stronger when a single opposition party has veto power over a reform, because this precludes the executive from playing a “divide-and-rule” strategy. We examine these claims with data from the Argentine provinces between 1983 and 2017. In line with expectations, the results show that the probability of initiating a reform is highest when the executive’s party controls a supermajority of seats, but falls sharply when a single opposition party has veto power over a reform, and this party expects to do well in the next executive election.
The Effect of the Electoral Calendar on Politicians’ Selection into Legislative Cohorts and Legislative Behavior in Argentina, 1983–2007, Legislative Studies Quarterly, 41(4), 2016, pp. 811-840. (with Juan Pablo Micozzi) [Appendix A] [Appendix B] [Replication data]
How do electoral opportunities affect politicians’ career strategies? Do politicians behave strategically in response to the opportunities provided by the electoral calendar? We argue that in a legislature that combines nonstatic ambition with a staggered electoral calendar, different kinds of politicians will have dissimilar preferences toward running in concurrent or midterm elections. Employing a simple decision-theoretic model, we show that politicians with no previous executive experience should strategically use midterm legislative elections as a way to increase their visibility among voters, while more experienced politicians should opt for concurrent elections. We support these claims with data from the Argentine Chamber of Deputies between 1983 and 2007.
Building Support from Below? Subnational Elections, Diffusion Effects, and the Growth of the Opposition in Mexico, 1984-2000. Comparative Political Studies, 49(14), 2016, pp. 1855-1895. [Online Appendix] [Replication data]
Can subnational elections contribute to democratization? In autocracies that hold competitive elections at multiple levels of government, subnational executive offices provide opposition parties with access to resources, increase their visibility among voters, and let them gain experience in government. This allows opposition parties to use subnational executives as “springboards” from which to increase their electoral support in future races, and predicts that their electoral support should follow a diffusion process, that is, a party’s electoral performance in municipality m at time t should be better if that party already governs some of m’s neighbors since t − 1. I evaluate this claim with data from municipal-level elections in Mexico between 1984 and 2000. Consistent with the fact that the Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party, PAN) followed an explicit strategy of party-building from below but the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD) did not, the results indicate that diffusion effects contributed to the growth of the former but not the latter.
Is the Incumbent Curse the Incumbent’s Fault? Strategic Behavior and Negative Incumbency Effects in Young Democracies. Electoral Studies, 44, 2016, pp. 66-75. (with Guillermo Rosas) [Replication data]
Recent studies based on regression discontinuity designs have detected negative incumbency effects in new democracies. However, regression discontinuity studies rely on analyses of close elections where actors are likely to behave strategically in ways that might undermine positive incumbency effects or exaggerate negative incumbency effects. In particular, (a) voters who supported second-loser parties in close elections may switch to the first loser in order to unseat an incumbent, while (b) higher-level officials such as governors may strategically target municipalities in which their party lost or won by a small margin. Evidence from municipal elections in Mexico is largely consistent with these claims — the vote share of second-loser parties drops disproportionately in close elections and negative incumbency effects are attenuated in the presence of copartisan governors — but the size of estimated effects suggests that strategic behavior is on its own not sufficient to account for the “incumbency curse.”
La Fórmula D’Hondt y la Integración de la Cámara de Diputados Argentina, 2005-2009. [The D’Hondt Formula and the Composition of the Argentine Chamber of Deputies, 2005-2009.] (in Spanish) Desarrollo Económico, 196, Enero-Marzo 2010, pp. 629-651.
According to the literature, the electoral system used in Argentina to elect national deputies is strongly biased toward the traditional parties. This is explained by the conjunction of four factors: (a) the geographical malapportionment that benefit the less populated provinces; (b) an electorate that tends to favor the traditional parties in those provinces; and (c) the majoritarian effects of the low district magnitudes of the small provinces, that are strengthened by (d) the political fragmentation the country has experienced since the 2001 political crisis. However, this analysis does not take into account other two important elements of the Argentine electoral system. In the first place, the D’Hondt formula used in Argentina is widely regarded as the most majoritarian of all PR formulas. In the second place, in the last few years the governing party has obtained very good electoral results in the province of Buenos Aires, by far the most under-represented of all, but also suffered several defeats in 4 of the 7 most over-represented districts of the country. This could imply that, at least between 2003 and 2007, the political effects of the electoral formula could have been more significant than those of malapportionment. A simulation analysis carried out in this paper confirms this supposition: between 2005 and 2009, the suppression of malapportionment would not have altered the composition of the Chamber of Deputies in a significant way, but the substitution of the Largest Remainder formula with Hare quota for the D’Hondt formula would have reduced the size of the government bloc by 14-21 seats (5.4%-9.2% of the Chamber), independently of the over-representation of the less populated provinces.
Why Democracy Protests Do Not Diffuse. (with Dawn Brancati) (revise and resubmit, Journal of Conflict Resolution)
One of the primary international factors proposed to explain the geographic and temporal clustering of democracy is the diffusion of democracy protests. Democracy protests are thought to diffuse across countries primarily through a demonstration effect, whereby protests in one country cause protests in another based on the positive information that they convey about the likelihood of successful protests elsewhere, and secondarily, through the action of transnational activists. In contrast to this view, we argue that, in general, democracy protests are not likely to diffuse across countries because the motivation for and the outcome of democracy protests results primarily from domestic processes that are unaffected or undermined by the occurrence of democracy protests in other countries. Our statistical analysis supports this argument. Using daily data on the onset of democracy protests around the world between 1989 and 2011, we found that in this period, democracy protests were not significantly more likely to occur in countries when democracy protests occurred in neighboring countries either in general or in ways consistent with the expectations of diffusion arguments.
It is widely documented that well-designed gender quotas and closed-list PR promote the representation of women. However, determining whether the second relationship is causal is problematic because electoral rules often covary with other factors that may also increase women’s representation. To address this issue, we exploit an exogenous source of variation in one crucial electoral rule, district magnitude, by leveraging the staggered electoral calendar employed to elect the Argentine Chamber of Deputies and the Legislature of the province of Buenos Aires. Both bodies elect half of their legislative delegation every two years, which results in some districts having different magnitudes in alternate years. We find that increases in district magnitudes modestly augment the overall number of women elected, the proportion of women elected (in Buenos Aires), and the probability that at least one woman will be elected (in Argentina). Consistent with the claim that quotas promote minimal compliance, we find that the effect is mediated by party magnitude, and district magnitude only makes a difference when quotas are in place.
What is the value of holding a legislative position in a setting in which legislative offices are considered less valuable than executive ones? Recent claims that politicians in Latin America often prefer an executive position at the subnational level over a national legislative one ignore the possibility that for politicians with little chance of winning an executive election, a legislative seat can serve as a “springboard” for jumping to a better position in the future. We examine this claim in Argentina, employing a regression discontinuity design to compare candidates who barely won or lost a national legislative seat. The results indicate that a legislative office can be helpful for jumpstarting a political career, though the effect is restricted to (a) members of the governor’s party – which has generally been Peronism – in (b) small provinces – where national legislators are more visible.
Work in progress
The accepted wisdom in the literature is that, by providing credible constraints on incumbents, authoritarian legislatures promote investment and hence growth. However, studies of individual legislatures show that these bodies have limited policy-making capacity and their members enjoy relatively little autonomy from the government, casting doubts on their capacity to actually constrain incumbents’ behavior. Moreover, the relationship between legislatures and economic performance is generally based on cross-sectional variation, thus ignoring the possibility that regimes that always had a legislature may be systematically different from those that did not. Drawing on a substantially larger sample than previous studies, employing three alternative measures of authoritarian legislatures and accounting for the possibility of heterogeneous effects, I find no evidence that authoritarian legislatures are associated with higher growth rates or increased access to private credit, either cross-sectionally or over time.
Authoritarian Party Institutionalization.
I propose to conceptualize authoritarian party strength in terms of institutionalization, i.e. the extent to which the party can be considered an autonomous organization rather than a creature of the sitting executive. Parties that are institutionalized in this sense should facilitate credible commitments among members of the ruling coalition. I measure ruling party institutionalization in autocracies with a dynamic Bayesian ordered IRT model that (a) aggregates several alternative indicators of institutionalization and (b) accounts for temporal variation in institutionalization over time. Besides providing intuitive measures of the degree of party institutionalization across autocracies, I show that, as expected by the literature, authoritarian regimes with more institutionalized parties tend to be more durable, in part because they are less vulnerable to coups.