GLD Working Papers

Not the Only Game in Town: Local-Level Representation in Transitions

Janine Clark, Emanuela Dalmasso and Ellen Lust


This paper examines the relationship between national and sub-national actors in the context of political transitions, exploring the debates over representation in early periods of democratic processes, how pressures to alter the composition of local council arise as part of power struggles among central elites, and the conditions under which local councils resist or succumb to such pressures. We argue that local councils take on an important political role in transitions, becoming politicized even in the absence of local elections. We examine these dynamics in Tunisia, where the appointed special delegations (SDs) that were put in place in the aftermath of the regime collapse subsequently came under pressure for change after the October 2011 National Constituent Assembly elections. Drawing on a unique dataset of Tunisian municipalities and in-depth case studies of four Tunisian municipalities (Hammamet, Gafsa, Zarzis, and Nefta) conducted before and after the transition, we argue that the troika’s success in changing SD composition to favor their parties depended on the ability of the SDs, with support of leftist parties and the Tunisian General Labour Union (Union Générale Tunisiennedu Travail, UGTT), to fight back. Where local branches of the country’s leftist political parties and union rallied to the SDs’ defense, appointed SD members could maintain their positions; where local SD members did not have such support and where the troika remained united, they lost their positions. Importantly whether SDs maintained their composition or changed, they were politicized in the process. Recognizing the conditions under which central elites are able to capture municipal councils helps to bring the role of representation and governance into the study of transitions, shedding light on local-national relations in periods of uncertainty and change.

Money Machine: Do the Poor Demand Clientelism?

Kristen Kao, Ellen Lust and Lise Rakner


The literature on clientelism suggests that the poor are particularly likely to exchange their votes for cash or material goods. In this supply-side perspective, candidates are more likely to offer goods in return for votes to the poor because the poor sell their votes at a lower price, are more likely to act reciprocally, and are less likely to see vote-buying as morally unacceptable. We know much less about the poor’s demand for vote-buying. Studies suggest that the middle class punishes vote-buying candidates, but assume that the poor welcome offers. Employing a rating-based, conjoint analysis in Malawi to examine the poor’s preferences over vote-buying, we find that the poor are repelled by candidates who promise an immediate exchange of particularistic goods for votes and prefer candidates who promise community goods. This highlights the need to consider the possibility that candidates incur costs when offering to buy votes in poor communities

Islam in a Changing Middle East: Local Politics and Islamist Movements


Scholars and policymakers have increasingly recognized that Islamist movements and actors vary widely – from domestically oriented, quietist movements engaging in democratic systems to revolutionary, armed movements aiming to upend the nation-state system. Yet, little has been done to understand how the nature of individual movements, and their success, often differs substantially at the subnational level. Some communities are much more likely to support different Islamist actors than others, and even the same movement may have very different strategies in some localities than others. Many questions remain regarding if and how Islamist movements and actors look or act differently in rural areas and secondary cities as they do in the capitals. To what extent do the strategies and performance of Islamists vary sub-nationally? And what explains this variation?

To address this gap in understanding, the Project on Middle East Political Science and the Program on Governance and Local Development at the University of Gothenburg convened a workshop in June 2017. In doing so, it extends research on Islamist movements, which has primarily examined the strategies of movement leaders, the relationship between Islamist movements and social services, the level support for these movements, and the performance of parliamentarian at the national level Yet, as political science as a discipline has increasingly recognized, much of the actual experience of politics takes place outside capital cities and major urban areas and that subnational variation is particularly important. The goal of the workshop was thus to take stock of the knowledge that exists on local Islam, and to point to new avenues of research.

The papers in this collection cover a diverse set of countries and historical periods. Bringing together specialists on local Islamist politics in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa provided us an extraordinary breadth of contexts. This allowed us to consider the extent to which the mechanisms we uncovered operate across multiple domains, to weigh factors common to Islamist movements, generally, and to recognize when outcomes appear to be primarily driven by context.

Poor People’s Beliefs and the Dynamics of Clientelism

Miquel Pellicer, Eva Wegner, Lindsay J. Benstead and Ellen Lust


Political science literature on clientelism has tended to focus on vote-buying, viewed primarily from the perspective of parties/brokers. The motives that drive clients to engage in clientelism and the different forms of clientelism that result remain relatively unexplored. This paper proposes a formal model of clientelism that focuses primarily on the client’s side, setting clientelism against the possibility of supporting a redistributive platform and incorporating insights from social psychology theories. We consider two key perceptions: political efficacy and inequality legitimation, and make them endogenous. In the model, perceptions of inefficacy and the legitimacy of inequality reinforce each other leading to multiple steady states. One of these resembles a “traditional” form of clientelism with disempowered clients that legitimize social inequalities. Community connectivity breaks this reinforcement mechanism and leads to a unique steady state, where clientelism and programmatic redistribution coexist, that resembles “modern” clientelism characterized by vote-buying.

It Takes a Female Chief: Gender and Effective Policy Advocacy in Malawi

Ragnhild Muriaas, Vibeke Wang, Lindsay J. Benstead, Boniface Dulani and Lise Rakner


Traditional leadership often coexists with modern political institutions, yet we know little about how traditional and state authority cues—or those from male or female sources—affect public support for human rights issues. Using an original survey experiment of 1,381 Malawians embedded in the 2016 Local Governance Performance Index (LGPI), we randomly assign respondents to a control group or one of four treatment groups to receive a message about child marriage reform from a female or male traditional authority or parliamentarian. Overall, we find that the female traditional authority is most effective, while other endorsers elicit backfire effects. Endorsements produce complex heterogeneous effects across respondent sex, patrilineal/matrilineal customs, gender attitudes, and institutional trust. We extend traditional governance literature by elaborating an intersectional approach to policy advocacy and building a theoretical framework explaining the impact of state and traditional endorsements across countries and policy domains.