Political Control of Bureaucracies as an Incentive for Political Party Behavior

This paper examines theoretically and empirically the institutional conditions relevant to political linkage

strategies between voters and parties. More specifically, we analyze whether and the extent to which the public

administration is politically controlled affects political parties’ linkage strategies, whether clientelistic or

programmatic. Political parties and their leaders are of crucial importance in democratic polities, and their

choices of linkage strategies can have substantial implications for the functioning of democracy and the ability of

a government to provide goods and services. The paper first unpacks the theorized link between political control

of the administration and parties’ strategies in seeking electoral support. Previous explanations of the prevalence

of clientelism point to factors such as economic development, ethnic cleavages and party competition. Following

the logic of Shefter (1994), we propose that the administrative structures constitute a key component of the

incentive structure for political party leaders. A politicized bureaucracy greatly expands parties’ and individual

politicians’ opportunity to use public resources to reward constituents. Party leaders then face a collective action

dilemma and risk losing voters if they abandon clientelistic strategies. The analyses employ data on bureaucratic

structures from the Quality of Government expert survey and recently published data on clientelism from

Kitschelt’s Democratic Accountability and Linkages Project.