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Political accountability and public service delivery in decentralized Indonesia: Incumbency advantage and the performance of second term mayors

Blane Lewis (), Hieu T.M. Nguyen and Adrianus Hendrawan

European Journal of Political Economy, 2020, vol. 64, issue C

Abstract: To what extent do voters hold local elected leaders accountable for public service delivery in fiscally and politically decentralized environments, as theory suggests should be the case? We examine political accountability and service delivery in subnational Indonesia, through the lens of mayoral incumbency advantage. We apply regression discontinuity methods to a unique data set on local elections to identify the causal impact of incumbency on election outcomes and relate those effects to changes in citizen access to local public services. We find that voters in Indonesia are, in general, very willing to return incumbents to office compared to their counterparts in other countries. We also determine that the incumbent advantage is conditional on advances in local service provision: as service access expands more quickly, voters are more likely to vote incumbents back into office. Finally, we find that electorally successful incumbents—second term mayors—spend substantially less on education and health and more on infrastructure, manage their budgets less prudently, and deliver public services neither more nor less effectively than their first term equivalents. We conjecture that term limits and the attendant lack of electoral incentives leads to the disappointing second-term mayor performance.

Keywords: Local government; Incumbency advantage; Political accountability; Service delivery; Indonesia (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpoleco.2020.101910

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