Explaining Public Support for Traditional Leaders in Sub-Saharan Africa
(Under review. Please request for a copy.)
Using Round 4 Afrobarometer data, I show that positive public support for chieftaincy is related the the strength of traditional authority institutions and the trustworthiness of chiefs. Furthermore, I show that there is an antagonistic relationship between chiefs and formal political officials, with lack of trustworthiness and accountability of MPs and local councilors being associated with increased demand for chiefs to expand their functions in public service delivery. These findings indicate that there are not necessarily complementarities between informal and formal institutions in the minds of citizens. Instead, the failure to consolidate accountable democracies in Africa has led to the longevity of chieftaincy institutions. This increases the attractiveness of chiefs as clientelistic agents, further harming democratic accountability mechanisms.
Traditional Authority and the Electoral Connection: The Role of Chieftaincy in African Elections
I argue that in new and consolidating democracies, politicians have a difficult time convincing voters to turnout to the polls. However, non-partisan and poorly financed local politicians lack the means of accessing institutionalized resources for typical clientelistic activities. Instead they turn to traditional leaders like chiefs to mobilize voters. However, one of the problems of understanding this political environment is the endogeneity issue for the relationship between politicians and chiefs: do politicians select powerful chiefs to mobilize voters or do politicians mold chiefs into something powerful?
I use a natural experiment of planned and built railroads from the early 20th century to exogenously treat the level of current chiefly power in southern Ghana. This natural experiment structures the sampling frame for a 3000 person household survey. I use treatment status to instrument for a novel measure of chiefly authority, amount of informal taxation contributed by households. I demonstrate that that strong chiefs drive up electoral turnout. This form of vote mobilization harms electoral competitiveness, with more pooling of voters on specific candidates. Furthermore, I show in places were chiefs are weaker, there is a higher prevalence of direct vote-buying to citizens, demonstrating that politicians turn towards alternative means of clientelism when chiefs are not viable partners.
Chiefs in Charge: The Developmental Outcomes of Clientelism in Ghana
In this paper, I consider what impact strong chiefs have on public service delivery and developmental outcomes. Part of the clientelistic arrangements between chiefs and politicians is the devolution of fiscal decision making and resources from formal government to the informal sector. Additionally, since clientelistic voting diminishes governmental accountability, the revenue that local governments receive through central government transfers is not spent as effectively or efficiently. Using original survey data from southern Ghana combined with a natural experiment that treats for chiefly authority, I show that public service delivery declines in quality where there are strong chiefs, especially for those services that require economies of scale and capital. In contrast, public services that are monitoring-intensive, like the use of bednets, improve with strong chiefs.