Accountable to whom? How strong parties subvert local democratic institutions
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionParty Politics, 2021. 10.1177/13540688211019720
How do politicians in emerging democracies subvert institutional reforms that are designed to improve accountability? Looking at patron-client relations within political parties, I present a strategy, partisan accountability, by which strong parties undermine accountability to citizens. At the national level, parties build patronage networks. Central party organizations use their power and resources to build political machines that extend to the local level. Leveraging these patronage networks, national politicians co-opt local politicians into being accountable to central party interests over their own constituents. I employ original subnational data from Bosnia and Herzegovina on party organization and mayoral recalls from 2005 to 2015. The analysis shows that strong parties initiate recalls to install loyal, co-partisan mayors rather than to sanction mayors for poor policy performance. This pattern demonstrates a strategy by which central party organizations in competitive democracies stifle subnational democratization to consolidate power.