Fazekas, M. & Hellmann, O. (2019). Elections and corruption: incentives to steal or incentives to invest? GTI-WP/2019:02, Budapest: Government Transparency Institute.
Despite the fact that most political systems around the world now hold regular multi-party elections, we know little about the effect of elections on political corruption. To address this gap in the literature, we employ a multi-method research design—combining unmatched and matched quantitative comparisons with a qualitative small-N study of Indonesia and the Philippines—to analyse a novel government contracting dataset that provides objective measurements of corruption. We find that, all things being equal, corruption risks increases in the immediate pre-election period by 1.3-6.1% points (measured as single bidding in competitive tenders). Moreover, we are able to demonstrate that the corruption-enhancing effect of elections among low and middle income countries is stronger under conditions of (i) high electoral competitiveness, (ii) mid-level party institutionalisation, and (iii) “localised club goods” clientelism.