British Journal of Political Science

Research Article

Electoral Rules and Constitutional Structures as Constraints on Corruption

a1 Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
a2 Law School and Department of Political Science, Yale University


Electoral rules and constitutional structures can influence the level of political corruption. We show that proportional representation (PR) systems are more susceptible to corrupt political rent-seeking than plurality systems. We argue that this result depends on the different loci of rents in PR and plurality systems, and on the monitoring difficulties faced by both voters and opposition parties under PR. We also examine the interaction between electoral rules and presidentialism. We test our main predictions and interaction effects on a cross-section of up to ninety-four democracies. The empirical findings strongly support our hypothesis that PR systems, especially together with presidentialism, are associated with higher levels of corrupt political rent-seeking.


a The authors thank José Antonio Cheibub, Rafael DiTella, Aaron Edlin, Eduardo Engel, Philip Levy, Fiona McGillivray, Peter Ordeshook, Jonathan Rodden, Frances Rosenbluth, Peter Siavelis, Alastair Smith and Georg Vanberg for helpful discussions and comments on earlier drafts and Philip Keefer and Jessica Seddon Wallack for sharing their data. They also acknowledge benefiting from the comments of the Journal's referees and editor and from those received in seminar presentations at Yale, Berkeley Law School, the Public Choice Society, the Midwest Political Science Association, the Society for Comparative Research, the World Bank, the Ohio State University and the California Institute of Technology. All remaining errors are the authors'. Rose-Ackerman's contribution was partially supported by the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.