Hotelling–Downs Competition with Free Entry When Voters Have an Option to Contest


  • We thank Sandro Brusco, Abhinay Muthoo, and Kunal Sengupta for initial feedback and three anonymous referees for many useful comments and suggestions that have helped us greatly in improving the paper. The usual disclaimer applies.


Osborne shows that for almost all distributions of voters’ preferences, a pure strategy Nash equilibrium does not exist in the classical Hotelling–Downs model of electoral competition with free entry. We show that equilibrium is generically possible if in addition one allows voters an option to announce their candidacy to compete side-by-side with office-seeking players. The model studied in this paper renders Osborne and the celebrated citizen-candidate model à la Osborne and Slivinski as two extreme cases. We characterize the equilibrium set with two central questions: (i) can there be equilibria where only voters contest? and (ii) are equilibria with contesting office-seeking players possible? We also show that in our general setting, extremists are typically voter-candidates so that in every two-party contest, office-seeking politicians stay out of competition.