Campaign clientelism in Peru : an informational theory

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2013-05

Authors

Munoz Chirinos, Paula

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Abstract

While clientelism has been intensively studied in comparative politics from very different theoretical perspectives and angles, scholars typically emphasize the importance of organized networks and long-term relations for sustaining electoral clientelism. However, electoral clientelism continues to be widespread in many countries despite the absence of organized parties or electoral machines. In order to account for this puzzle, I propose an informational approach that stresses the indirect effects that investments in electoral clientelism have on vote intentions. By distributing minor consumer goods, politicians buy the participation of poor voters at rallies and different sorts of campaign events. I argue that this particular subtype of electoral clientelism -- "campaign clientelism" -- helps politicians improvise political organizations, influence indifferent clients, and signal their electoral viability to strategic actors. Thus, by influencing competition and the dynamics of the race, campaign clientelism shapes vote choices and electoral outcomes. Campaign clientelism affects vote choices through two causal mechanisms. First, this subtype of electoral clientelism can help establish candidates' electoral viability, especially where alternative signals provided by well-organized parties are weak. By turning out large numbers of people at rallies, candidates establish and demonstrate their electoral prospects to the media, donors, rent-seeking activists, and voters. In this way, politicians induce more and more voters to support them strategically. Second, campaign clientelism can convince unattached rally participants of the candidates' electoral desirability. While providing different sorts of information at campaign events, politicians help campaign clients make choices. Other things being equal, viable and desirable candidates have better chances of actually achieving office. Qualitative, quantitative, and experimental evidence from Peru, a democracy without parties, supports the informational theory's expectations.

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