Do trade-transmitted international business cycles affect the timing of national elections? This article shows that export expansions do not differ substantively from booms in aggregate output in inviting opportunistic governments to call elections, especially as their terms mature. Further analysis confirms two ancillary implications of this relationship: (a) that clusters of countries tend to hold elections in periods of international economic expansion and (b) that national election cycles, much like business cycles, have become more correlated over time, most prominently in Europe. The findings in this article raise implications for continued economic integration: freer movement of goods, services and capital may imply more correlated business cycles and, by extension, election cycles.
In this paper, I develop a career concerns model of government policy choice within a dynamic optimal stopping framework to predict the degree of surfing (opportunistic timing) and manipulation (politically motivated economic intervention) under alternate institutional structures. Among other results, I find that the likelihood of opportunistic elections rises with exogenous economic performance, with longer maximum term lengths, with future electoral uncertainty, and with economic volatility but diminishes in the value of office-holding; manipulation increases with the maximum term length and with the value of office-holding but decreases with exogenous economic performance and with economic volatility. The model suggests that single-party governments should be highly opportunistic in calling elections and that countries that allow opportunistic election timing should experience less economically distortionary political intervention than their fixed-timing counterparts.
Does democratization diffuse? For over two decades, numerous studies have asserted that democratization diffuses across countries but recent research has challenged this claim. Most recently, work by Brancati and Lucardi has buttressed this null finding by demonstrating that an oft assumed mechanism for the diffusion of democratization—the diffusion of pro-democracy protests—lacks empirical support. We review this contribution in the context of recent research and pose the question: if democratization does not diffuse, then why does democratization cluster in time and space? The answer, we argue, is that democratization occurs in two steps. First, common shocks, economic or political, lead to regime collapse. Then, diffusion does emerge in a second step: new elites are more likely to install a democracy following a regime collapse if neighboring countries have recently democratized. We present evidence from democratic transitions in 125 autocracies between 1875 and 2014.
Electoral competitiveness is a key explanatory construct across a broad swath of phenomena, finding application in diverse areas related to political incentives and behavior. Despite its frequent theoretical use, no valid measure of electoral competitiveness exists that applies across different electoral and party systems. We argue that one particular type of electoral competitiveness'electoral risk'can be estimated across institutional contexts and matters most for incumbent behavior. We propose, estimate, and make available a cross-nationally applicable measure for elections in 22 developed democracies between 1960 and 2011. Unlike extant alternatives, our measure captures vote volatility and is constructed at the party (not system) level, exogenous to most policy predictors, and congruent with the perceptions and incentives of policy-makers.