Mares Young 2016

From Projecting Power

"Buying, Expropriating, and Stealing Votes" by Isabela Mares and Lauren Young.

  • Main Topic: Explores the complex dynamics of electoral influence worldwide, examining how voters are influenced by both threats and promises based on their vote.
    • Electoral Manipulation: this is also called fraud, basically when the voting process is being tampered with before an election. Votes are manipulated and can be given more to one candidate and also removed from another candidate to get the desired results. This is a problem because its basically cheating and goes against the democratic values
    • Clientelism Evolution: Details the progression of clientelism, highlighting the variety of intermediaries involved in the electoral process and the different tactics they employ.
    • Types of Clientelism: Distinguishes between positive inducements (rewards) and negative inducements (threats).
    • Purpose of Introduction: Sets up for a detailed examination of the strategic use of coercive (forceful) and non-coercive (voluntary) tactics in electoral politics.
    • Research Necessity: Emphasizes the importance of further research to understand the effects of these strategies on democratic integrity and voter independence.


  • Definition of Clientelism: Clientelism involves a transactional relationship where voters receive individual incentives from politicians to vote in a specific way, mediated through brokers.
  • Distinction from Other Practices: This differs from general promises of benefits which are not tied to individual votes, and from electoral fraud that does not consider voter preferences.
  • Types of Inducements:
    1. Positive Inducements: Tangible rewards like money, goods, or favors exchanged for votes.

-Example: The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Mexico would target individuals and give them benefits such as money and groceries to win their votes

    1. Negative Inducements: Threats of economic or physical harm used to influence voting behavior,including withdrawal of benefits, eviction, or violence.
    • -Example: The countries of Zimbabwe and Belarus would target opposition rallies and would use media censorship to suppress people from voting for the opposition

  • Challenges in Measurement: Difficulty in measuring inducements due to their illegal nature and the mutual desire to conceal these transactions, especially where vote-buying is illegal.
  • Voter Expectations: The influence of voter expectations on the perception and effectiveness of inducements. The anticipation versus actual receipt of benefits can shift the nature of the inducement from positive to negative.
  • Psychological Impact: The psychological effects of gains versus losses play a crucial role, indicating that voters’ perceptions significantly impact electoral decisions in the context of clientelism.

The Multidimensionality of Clientelism: Variety of Brokers and Strategies

  • Topic: Discussion on the variety of brokers and strategies in clientelism, highlighting the critical role of intermediaries in linking political candidates and voters. There is an increased academic focus on understanding the complex dynamics between brokers, candidates, and voters.
  • Types of Brokers:
    1. Partisan Brokers: Affiliated directly with political parties.
    2. State Employees: Government officials or workers.
    3. Civil Society and Religious Organizations: Groups involved in community and religious activities.
    4. Private Actors: Employers, business leaders.
    5. Ethnic Leaders: Representatives of specific ethnic groups.
    6. Criminal Organizations: Illegal groups leveraging their influence.
  • Forms of Inducements:
    1. Positive Inducements: Monetary gifts, services, and other beneficial rewards.
    2. Negative Inducements: Threats of violence, economic harm, or other punitive measures.
    3. Strategic Choices: Brokers and political actors select strategies based on the institutional setting, voter characteristics, and economic conditions, affecting the combination of clientelistic tactics used.

  • Explaining Mixes in Clientelism: The Role of Institutions and Economic Conditions
  1. The authors argue that the diversity in clientelistic practices can be attributed to the specific political and economic settings within different regions or countries.

The discussion begins by acknowledging the significant role of electoral rules, such as the level of ballot secrecy and the legal ramifications for illicit electoral strategies, in determining the prevalence and type of clientelism. Mares and Young delve into the dynamics of how voter characteristics, including socioeconomic status and psychological factors, influence the likelihood of being targeted by clientelistic strategies. This nuanced analysis suggests that political actors strategically select a mix of clientelistic approaches based on the anticipated effectiveness of these strategies in different institutional and economic contexts. Furthermore, the text explores the impact of economic conditions on clientelism, highlighting how economic disparities and labor market conditions influence the feasibility and desirability of various clientelistic strategies. The authors point to the interplay between economic factors and institutional settings as critical in shaping the strategic choices of political actors, thereby affecting the overall landscape of clientelism.

  • Voting Secrecy

This subsection investigates how the degree of ballot secrecy influences the strategies employed in clientelism. This analysis sheds light on the crucial role that the protection of voter secrecy plays in shaping electoral tactics. The authors argue that threats of post-electoral retribution are potent when ballot secrecy is inadequately protected, suggesting a greater reliance on intimidation strategies under such conditions. Conversely, the enforcement of laws safeguarding voting secrecy tends to diminish the utilization of these coercive methods.

  • Monitoring and Punishment of Malfeasance
  • Analysis Focus: Examines the impact of monitoring and punishment severity on electoral misconduct.
  • Effect of Monitoring: Increased monitoring typically reduces electoral malfeasance.
    1. European Case Study: Post-suffrage expansion in European countries provides a valuable context for exploring electoral clientelism.
  • Variations in Malpractice: Notes significant cross-national differences in electoral irregularities like vote buying, intimidation, and ballot stuffing following the adoption of voter secrecy.
  • Role of Electoral Laws: The enforcement of stringent electoral laws shapes the strategies of political actors.
    1. Strategic Adaptation: In regions with harsh penalties for vote buying, such practices are deterred.

Political actors shift tactics, possibly toward intimidation by state employees or unpenalized actions by employers.

  • Strategic Calculus: Political actors adapt their strategies based on the existing monitoring and punishment environment, demonstrating a nuanced understanding of the risks and benefits of different electoral malpractices.

  • Electoral Systems and Irregularities
  • Focus on Electoral Systems: Investigates how different electoral systems affect the prevalence of electoral irregularities.
  • Inconclusive Research Findings:Some studies indicate that proportional representation systems may have higher levels of electoral corruption than plurality systems.

Other studies show no definitive link between the type of electoral system and the level of electoral malfeasance.

  • Complexity and Challenges: Difficulty in establishing clear relationships between electoral systems and specific strategies of electoral manipulation.
  • Exploration of Candidate Selection Rules:Examines whether open or closed list systems in electoral politics influence corruption levels differently.
  • Lack of Scholarly Consensus:Significant disagreement remains among scholars regarding whether open or closed lists lead to more electoral corruption.

Control of Local Institutions: Incubancy and Traditional Leaders

  • Mares & Young seek to understand the importance of the influence of electoral strategies within leaders, they will break down the variables that may arise with the practice of electoral clientelism
Clientelism: a practice where politicians exchange favors for political support from individuals or groups   Incubancy: a situation where a person currently holds a particular office or position

Foundational understanding:

An important aspect of explaining the level and distribution of clientelism is understanding how political parties seek control over institutions, particularly local ones.

Clientelism can be seen for instance with local leaders (mayors, traditional leaders) influencing voters for economic or ideological reasons. Argument:The greater the contact can be made for the benefit of political support, the more likely state resources will be deployed

  • Studies:
  1. Have found significant differences in the use of clientelistic strategies that involve state employee brokers, such as the provision of administrative favors (Mares & Petriva 2014)
  2. Mares & Muntean (2015): demonstrate differences between the use of welfare coercion for political turnover
    1. Concluding:The structures of leadership may affect variation in clientelistic strategies by shaping the strength and availability of local leaders who command moral authority and resources to influence the electoral behavior of voters
  1. Economic Conditions
    1. Employers electoral influence is the result of their control over important dimensions affecting the welfare of workers, such as their wages, levels of employment, or access to social policy benefits that are privately provided.
  • 3 factors lower the costs of economic intimidation in localities with high levels of concentration
    • Owing to their scale, larger firms incur lower costs in carrying out political activities, such as control of electoral turnover or the distribution of political material on behalf of a particular candidate.
    • In concentrated localities, workers have fewer employment opportunities outside the firm.
    • The concentration of employment in the hands of small members of actors reduces the possible coordination problems faced by employers in punishing workers with “dangerous” political views by denying them employment opportunities.
  • The willingness of employers to engage in electoral intimidation is also affected by labor market conditions such as labor scarcity
  • Voter Characteristics
    • There is also compelling evidence that brokers and parties use different strategies against voters with different characteristics
    • These explanations refer to voters' partisan preferences, socioeconomic status, and psychological attributes
  • Policy or Partisan preference
  • Arguments on Partisan Preference:
    • Formal theories often predict that parties should focus inducements on voters with weak ideological affiliations.
    • Some argue that it's more efficient to target core supporters, who are deeply embedded in partisan networks.
    • Robinson & Torvick (2009) suggest that violence or threats should be used against swing voters, who are costly to win over due to competitive bidding from multiple parties.

  • Stokes et al. (2013) propose that politicians ideally target swing voters for vote buying, but due to imperfect monitoring, brokers often mobilize core supporters to maximize their own benefits.
  • Study/Data:
  1. Data from 10 African countries show that swing voters are less likely to receive vote-buying offers, contradicting theories that they should be primarily targeted.
    1. No substantial evidence links the targeting of electoral threats or violence to voters’ partisan alignments.

Socioeconomic Status:

  • Economic factors, especially income, significantly influence whether voters are targeted with inducements or subjected to violence.
  1. Socioeconomic Argument
    1. It’s hypothesized that poorer voters are less likely to face violence as a substitute for vote buying, yet they are often more vulnerable due to their inability to afford personal security.
      1. In Africa, poorer voters tend to fear electoral violence more, evident in seven out of ten countries surveyed with high levels of such fear.
  • Psychological Factors:
    • Psychological attributes significantly affect how voters respond to electoral threats, potentially influencing their political actions
  • Psychological Argument
    1. Emotional responses, shaped by campaign content, can significantly alter voter behavior, with anger proving more effective in mobilizing pro-opposition sentiments, especially in higher-income areas.

Concluding (Psychological):

  • The effectiveness of electoral violence can partly be explained by how different psychological predispositions among citizens influence their reaction to threats or violence, suggesting varied emotional responses across different demographic groups.

  • Summary
    • As trade-off and clientelistic mobilization was at the center of electoral processes, studies have been attempting to further disaggregate the types of clientelistic echnages that we can be seen done by brokers with candidates and voters. Questions such as “what are the most salient variables that explain variation across countries, regions, and localities in the mix of clientelistic strategies?” and “who are the voters being targetted by different clientelistic strategies?”. TTherefore Mares & Young seek to gain a further understanding of how local leaders/ brokers are important during elections and what changes are possible to shift influence strategies, as well as understanding when voters are more likely to support particular candidates if those relations are viewed as gifts or threats.