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Kazimierz M. Slomczynski, Goldie Shabad and Jakub Zielinski, "Fluid Party Systems, Electoral Rules and Accountability of Legislators in Emerging Democracies: The Case of Ukraine," Party Politics, 14 (January, 2008), 91-112.

First paragraph:
One of the central tenets of democratic theory is that elections function as a mechanism of accountability by providing voters with the opportunity to hold politicians responsible for their performance in office (Przeworski et al., 1999). If this is the case, the presumption is that politicians have an incentive to implement policies that serve the collective good, rather than to engage in rent-seeking or to provide particularistic benefits to their supporters. Here, however, we address only the empirical validity of the claim that repeated elections function as a mechanism of political control by examining whether the electoral fortunes of individual politicians rest, at least in part, on improved or worsened economic conditions in the districts in which they seek re-election. We also address the issue of whether type of electoral format affects the ability of voters to hold politicians accountable for their performance.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Unemployment change in ecological units by electoral format, 1990-2002
Table 2. Logistic regression of winning election on pro-presidential party/bloc affiliation and weighted unemployment change in ecological units, controlling for independents in 1998
Table 3. Logistic regression of winning election on pro-presidential party/bloc affiliation and weighted unemployment change in ecological units by electoral format
Table 4. Logistic regression of winning election on pro-presidential party/bloc affiliation, weighted unemployment change in ecological units, and control variables, for single-member districts

First paragraph of Conclusion:
Our findings provide evidence that repeated parliamentary elections in Ukraine do serve as a mechanism of political control. The re-election probability of legislative incumbents affiliated with pro-presidential parties/blocs is an increasing function of economic performance, while the re-election probability of incumbents from opposition parties is a decreasing function of economic performance. Since our analysis is based on data from the first three elections, this result is theoretically interesting because it suggests that the system of repeated elections functions as theorized from the very beginning. In particular, there appears to be no need for a lengthy, transitional process during which voters and politicians learn about the incentives generated by repeated elections. Indeed, it would seem that individual politicians have learned rather quickly since significant numbers of incumbents associated with pro-presidential groups employ strategies, such as running as independents, switching partisan affiliation and forming spoiler parties, to circumvent being held responsible for their or their parties' performance. Thus, given the historical legacy of dictatorship, the institutional context in which elections are held, and the strategies employed by governing incumbents to escape punishment for poor performance, the fact that our findings indicate that voters in Ukraine have learned to use the electoral system to hold their representatives to account is surprising.

Last update December 2007