Accountability, Political Capture and Selection into Politics: Evidence from Peruvian Municipalities

Abstract

We estimate the effects of political accountability on the selection of politicians when accountability mechanisms are prone to political capture. Using a comprehensive dataset that records characteristics of candidates for mayor in the last three local elections in Perú, and a close election sharp regression discontinuity design, we compare candidates running for mayor in districts where the incumbent was ousted from office through a recall referendum in the previous electoral term with those who run in districts where the recall referendum failed by a small margin. Candidates in municipalities where the incumbent was recalled are less educated, have less experience in elected offices and in the public sector, and are younger. These findings are consistent with a framework where potential candidates learn about an accountability mechanism which is prone to capture, distorting the main objectives of improving the quality of government, and instead discouraging high quality candidates to run. The negative selection of candidates is partially offset by voters, who elect the best politician out of a lower quality pool of candidates.