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Abstract

Is corruption systematically related to electoral rules? Recent theoretical work suggests a positive answer. But little is known about the data. We try to address this lacuna by relating corruption to different features of the electoral system in a sample of about eighty democracies in the 1990s. We exploit the cross-country variation in the data, as well as the time variation arising from recent episodes of electoral reform. The evidence is consistent with the theoretical priors. Larger voting districts—and thus lower barriers to entry—are associated with less corruption, whereas larger shares of candidates elected from party lists—and thus less individual accountability—are associated with more corruption. Individual accountability appears to be most strongly tied to personal ballots in plurality-rule elections, even though open party lists also seem to have some effect. Because different aspects roughly offset each other, a switch from strictly proportional to strictly majoritarian elections only has a small negative effect on corruption. (JEL: E62, H3)