Ideas for growth session 5: Governance

The session was chaired by Gerard Padro i Miquel (LSE; IGC) and organized around research on understanding and improving electoral accountability. The first speaker, Macartan Humphreys (Columbia), presented a case study on citizen empowerment and political accountability in Uganda. The main purpose of the study was to understand how accountability and transparency affect voters’ decisions and alters politicians’ behaviour, once the latter are aware that their performance is being scrutinized prior to elections. The results of the intervention suggest that peoples’ election was largely independent of the score a politician got, whereas the peer assessment of politicians was very predictive of whether they were getting elected. Furthermore, people who thought that their representatives were good but their performance scores turned out to be low reported a downward adjustment in their assessment.

The second speaker, Pedro Vicente (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) presented research on how an NGO-conducted campaign against electoral violence can help undermine violence, drawing on a case study of Nigeria. The main results include: the anti-violence campaign increased the sense of security of the general population; the campaign increased empowerment to counteract electoral violence; the campaign increased voter turnout by 7-11 percentage points, and; it decreased the intensity of violence as reported by journalists.

The session followed with Michael Callen’s (UCSD/UCLA) evidence from a field experiment in Afghanistan on institutional corruption and electoral fraud. His research showed that a lack of constraints on election officials may be a serious obstacle to free and fair elections; political connections facilitate access to impunity, and; there is strong evidence that suggests that reducing fraud increases popular support. The discussions were enriched by a more practical perspective given by Barbara Smith (Carter Center) and Miriam Golden (UCLA). They suggested that working with domestic observers, although underfunded is of paramount importance in reducing fraud. Furthermore, they expressed concerns stemming from the field that even if electoral violence and fraud are effectively eliminated, political corruption may continue to distort outcomes and accountability.