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Do national political parties matter? Evidence from Italian municipalities

Matteo Gamalerio

European Journal of Political Economy, 2020, vol. 63, issue C

Abstract: Recently several countries have experienced a drop in popularity of national political parties, accompanied by the success of independent movements (e.g. “Civic Lists” in Italy). I exploit the success of “Civic Lists” in Italian municipalities and use them as a comparison group for party-affiliated politicians, to test whether national parties affect fiscal discipline. Using a Regression Discontinuity Design (RDD), I show that party-affiliated mayors are more fiscally responsible: they run lower deficits, accumulate less debt and reduce expenditures. The effect is significant only for municipalities not constrained by fiscal rules. This suggests that national parties act as a substitute for fiscal rules in constraining politicians. Besides, I provide evidence that the discipline of party-affiliated politicians is linked to better career prospects: party-affiliated mayors have a higher probability of being re-elected and better chances of being promoted to higher levels of government. Alternative stories find less support in the data.

Keywords: Party affiliation; Independent politicians; Fiscal discipline; Fiscal rules; Local government finance; RDD (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 H70 H72 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpoleco.2020.101862

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