Introduction "Buying, Expropriating, and Stealing Votes" by Isabela Mares and Lauren Young illuminates the complex dynamics of electoral influence across the globe, where voters are often swayed by a mix of threats and promises contingent on their voting behavior. The text emphasizes the evolution of clientelism, detailing the diversity of actors who serve as brokers in the electoral process and the varied forms of clientelism, categorized by positive and negative inducements. The introduction sets the stage for a deeper exploration of the strategic mix between coercive and non-coercive tactics in electoral politics, underlining the critical need for further research into how these strategies impact democratic processes and voter autonomy.
Definitions Clientelism is characterized by a transactional relationship between politicians and voters, where voters are given individual incentives to vote in a specific manner, usually mediated through brokers. This relationship is distinct from broader promises of benefits that do not rely on individual voting behavior and from electoral fraud, which directly undermines electoral choice without engaging with voter preferences. A significant aspect of their definition hinges on the differentiation between positive and negative inducements. Positive inducements include tangible rewards such as money, goods, or favors offered to voters in exchange for their vote—essentially, vote buying. Negative inducements, on the other hand, involve threats of economic or physical harm to coerce voting behavior, including threats to withdraw benefits, eviction, or even acts of violence. The authors underscore the challenges in measuring both types of inducements due to their illicit nature and the mutual interest in concealing the transaction, especially in environments where vote-buying is criminalized. Another discussion revolves around voter expectations and how they influence the perception and effectiveness of inducements. The distinction between a voter's anticipation of receiving a benefit and their actual receipt of it can alter the nature of the inducement from positive to negative, illustrating the complex dynamics at play in electoral clientelism. This complexity is amplified by the psychological impacts of gains versus losses, suggesting that how voters perceive inducements can significantly affect their electoral decisions.
The Multidimensionality of Clientelism: Variety of Brokers and Strategies This segment elaborates on the diverse actors involved as brokers in the clientelistic process and their range of strategies, emphasizing the critical role these intermediaries play in mediating between political candidates and voters. The authors underscore the shift in scholarly attention toward understanding the intricacies of these relationships. The text elaborates on the categories of brokers, which include partisan brokers, state employees, civil society and religious organizations, private actors like employers, ethnic leaders, and even criminal organizations. Each broker type is associated with specific forms of inducements, whether positive, such as monetary gifts or services, or negative, including threats of violence or economic harm. This nuanced view reveals the strategic choices political actors make based on the context, such as institutional settings, voter characteristics, and economic conditions, influencing the mix of clientelistic strategies deployed.
Explaining Mixes in Clientelism: The Role of Institutions and Economic Conditions 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 This subsection provides an insightful analysis of how variations in monitoring and the severity or likelihood of punishment for electoral misconduct affect the incidence of electoral malfeasance. The authors highlight that, generally, enhanced monitoring tends to reduce electoral malfeasance and that the political experience of European countries post-suffrage expansion presents a compelling case for studying electoral clientelism. This subsection delves into the intriguing cross-national variations in electoral irregularities such as vote buying, intimidation, and ballot stuffing, noting how these practices differed significantly across countries after adopting voter secrecy. The discussion emphasizes the role of electoral laws and their enforcement in shaping the strategies employed by political actors. For instance, stringent penalties for vote buying in some jurisdictions effectively deterred such practices, pushing political actors toward alternative strategies like intimidation by state employees or unpenalized electoral interventions by employers. This adaptive behavior underscores the strategic calculus political actors use in response to the monitoring and punishment landscape, demonstrating a sophisticated understanding of the risks and rewards associated with various forms of electoral malfeasance.
Electoral Systems and Irregularities This subsection delves into the complex interplay between electoral systems and the prevalence of electoral irregularities, emphasizing the inconclusive nature of research findings. The discussion highlights that while some studies suggest proportional representation systems might be associated with larger levels of electoral corruption compared to plurality systems, others find no clear relationship between the type of electoral system and electoral malfeasance. This ambiguity in findings underscores the challenges in discerning direct links between electoral systems and the strategies of electoral manipulation employed by political actors. Further, the authors explore the hypothesis that electoral systems with different candidate selection rules (open or closed lists) might impact levels of electoral corruption differently. However, scholarly consensus needs to be improved, with significant disagreement on whether systems with open or closed lists lead to higher electoral corruption.
Control of Local Institutions: Incumbency and Traditional Leaders This subsection delves into how the control of local institutions, mainly through incumbency and traditional leadership, significantly influences the distribution and effectiveness of clientelistic strategies. The authors discuss how long-term incumbents, with their extended control over local administrative resources, can leverage these assets to influence electoral outcomes. This control allows for a more strategic deployment of state resources during elections, effectively turning state employees into brokers of clientelism. The discussion further extends to the role of traditional leaders and local elites, who, like incumbents, can significantly sway electoral results. Deeply rooted in their communities, these leaders command respect and loyalty that can be mobilized for political purposes. Their ability to influence voter behavior, often for economic or ideological reasons, underscores the complex interplay between local governance structures and electoral clientelism.
Control of Local Institutions: Incubancy and Traditional Leaders As 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
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
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)
Mares & Muntean (2015): demonstrate differences between the use of welfare coercion for political turnover 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
VARIABLES Economic Conditions 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 Three factors lower the costs of economic intimidation in localities with high levels of concentration
First, 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 Second, in concentrated localities, workers have fewer employment opportunities outside the firm Finally, 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
There is 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 Arguments on Partisan preference
Most formal theories on this topic have predicted that, under most conditions, parties should target inducements on voters with weak ideological affiliations
Some scholars have argued that core supporters are easier to target efficiently because they are embedded in partisan networks Robinson & Torvick (2009) argue that parties should substitute violence for threats against swing voters because they are the most expensive to buy off if multiple parties are bidding for their votes Proposition Stokes et. al. (2013) propose a “broker-mediated” theory of targeting in which politicians prefer to buy the votes of swing voters, but brokers who are imperfectly monitored end up mobilizing core supporters in order to capture rents Study/Data
A study was conducted by collecting data from 10 countries in Africa to understand the amount of inducement offered and the fear of violence the results were the following:
The Afrobaometer data shows a negative and statistically significant relationship between being a swing voter and a vote-buying offer in six of the ten countries This evidence suggests that parties are more likely to offer positive inducements to their own core supporters, but little evidence supports that there is any targeting based on the strength of voters' party identifications, which runs counter to the idea that swing voters should be singled out for violence
Concluding: The threats of electoral violence, however, do not appear to be strongly targeted on the basis of voter partisan preference
SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS Looking further into different variables that might alter the approach of persuading votes, a socioeconomic analysis will be made It is likely that economic factors such as income play an important role in determining whether voters are targetted with both positive and negative inducements Argument:
If vote buying and violence are substitutes, then we might expect that parties would be less likely to use violence against poor voters because their
However low-income voters may also be the most vulnerable to violence, as they are least capable of investing in security Study
The same afrobarameter measuring inducements offered and fear of violence was conducted upon such arguments and the results are the following: Poorer voters are consistently more to be afraid of electoral violence in seven out of ten of the African countries with the most fear of electoral violence
Psychological Factors As one of many possible factors for voting outcomes, Mares and Young explains how one of the major puzzles is the understanding of how brokers enforce contracts with voters despite the existence of the secret ballot
Secret Ballot: confidential voting method
That emotion shapes reaction to the threat of repression and con ultimately cost of a shift in political standpoints
Young (2015) finds that campaign ads shared by an opposition party in a repressive environment cause more pro-opposition political speech when they appeal to anger rather than enthusiasm and that this effect is particularly strong among voters in higher-income areas Concluding
With the results Mares & Young can argue that results suggest that citizens vary in psychological propensity when it comes to mobilizing or demobilizing emotions in response to the threat of electoral violence to then help explain how effective violence is from the regime
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.