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Reelection and Renegotiation: International Agreements in the Shadow of the Polls


We study dynamic international agreements when one of the negotiating parties faces a threat of electoral replacement during negotiations, when agreements made before the election are the starting point for any subsequent renegotiation, and when governments cannot commit to future negotiation strategies. Conflicts of interest between governments may be softened or intensified by the governments’ conflicts of interest with voters. We characterize when the threat of electoral turnover strengthens the prospect for successful negotiations, when it may cause negotiations to fail, and how it affects the division of the surplus from cooperation. We also show how changes in domestic politics—including uncertainty about the preferences of domestic political parties—affect a domestic government’s ability to extract greater concessions in negotiations.

Corresponding author
Peter Buisseret is an Assistant Professor, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago (
Dan Bernhardt is IBE Distinguished Professor, Department of Economics, University of Illinois, and a Professor, Department of Economics, University of Warwick (
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We are indebted to Vincent Anesi, Mark Fey, and Amy Pond for their discussions of earlier drafts of this paper. In particular, we gratefully acknowledge Mark Fey’s help in clarifying our intuition behind Lemma 1. We also thank Emiel Awad, Steve Callander, Kerwin Charles, John Duggan, Wiola Dziuda, Jon Eguia, Gilat Levy, Kostas Matakos, Adam Meirowitz, Pablo Montagnes, Stephanie Rickard, Alastair Smith, and Richard Van Weelden for very helpful discussions. We are grateful to seminar audiences at King’s, Bath, Columbia, the Cornell Political Economy Conference, the Canadian Public Economic Group Meeting, and the UNSW-UQ Political Economy Workshop. The Editor and three anonymous referees offered many excellent suggestions that substantially improved this paper.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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