Representation, policy making and accountability : learning from changes in democratic institutions
This thesis proposes a political economy analysis of the impact of institutional change on representation, policy making and accountability. Specifically, it focuses on the transition from parliamentarism to presidentialism and it exploits information from a unique database on a natural experiment that took place in Italy in the 1990s. We first provide an introduction and critical overview of the related political economy literature. Chapter 1 analyses the effect of the constitutional transition on the structure of governments and fiscal policy out-comes. It develops a theoretical framework for the analysis of citizens' ability to hold representatives accountable in a world of multiple policy issues. The model predicts that institutional change improves accountability and that it modifies the relationship between the executive and legislative preferred policies. These changes are reflected in changes in policy decisions on fiscal expenditure. Findings show that differentiation widens between mayors and the leading parties in the legislature. Furthermore, political changes (as captured by differentiation) affect the expenditure choices in the three largest categories of public expenditure. Chapter 2 analyses the interplay between constitutions and the occurrence of political business cycles. The results show that, once the effect of elections is allowed to vary across constitutional regimes, we observe tax cuts and other policy changes before elections only after the institutional transition took place. Finally, Chapter 3 analyses how the introduction of presidentialism substantially enhanced the quality of elected representatives that are part of the executive. The empirical results show that educational levels of elected representatives rose, and that there was a change in the occupational mix due to the large number of elected politicians with high opportunity-cost professions that joined the local governments. This can be explained by higher self selection of good quality politicians in the political competition for executive seats after the reform.