Election by Community Consensus: Effects on Political Selection and Governance

Ashna Arora


This paper evaluates the effects of encouraging the selection of local politicians in India via community-based consensus, as opposed to a secret ballot election. While secret ballot elections prevent vote capture by guaranteeing voter anonymity, consensus-based elections may improve welfare by promoting the exchange of information. I find that politicians elected via community consensus are younger and more educated, but lead to worse governance as measured by a fall in local expenditure and regressive targeting of workfare employment. These results are consistent with qualitative evidence that finds that community-based processes are prone to capture by the local elite, and need not improve the quality of elected politicians or governance.

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