CFDS Discussion Paper 2019/8
I present a model of repeated electoral competition between two parties. Parts of the electorate vote retrospectively and consider the amount of rent-seeking by the incumbent party, while the prospective voters follow probabilistic party preferences when casting their votes. I show that it is possible to distinguish the effects of incumbency advantage and electoral punishment on the minimum level of rent-seeking that is consistent with equilibrium. As long as there is electoral punishment for excessive rent-seeking, a larger incumbency advantage increases accountability by decreasing the minimum amount of rent-seeking consistent with equilibrium. The reason is that the larger the incumbency advantage is, the more important is the result of the next election for all future election outcomes. Consequently, the incumbent party is willing to give up more rent-seeking opportunities to improve its electoral prospects.