Incomplete Political Contracts with Secret Ballots: Reciprocity as a Force to Enforce Sustainable Clientelistic Relationships

Kenju Kamei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Clientelism is frequently observed in our societies. Various mechanisms that help sustain incomplete political contracts (e.g., monitoring and punishment) have been studied in the literature to date. However, do such contracts emerge in elections with secret ballots when the interactions are one-shot? How does repetition affect the evolution of incomplete political contracts? Using an incentivized experiment, this article finds that even during one-shot interactions where monitoring is not possible, candidates form incomplete contracts through vote buying and promise-making. The candidates' clientelistic behaviors are heterogeneous: some target swing voters, whereas others offer the most to loyal voters, or even opposition voters. These tactics distort voting behaviors as well as election outcomes. Repeated interactions significantly magnify candidates' offers and deepen clientelistic relationships. These results underscore the possibility that clientelism evolves due to people's strategic behaviors and interdependent preferences, without relying on alternative mechanisms (JEL C92, D72).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-439
Number of pages48
JournalJournal of Law, Economics, and Organization
Volume37
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jul 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law

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