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Gerrymandering in Electoral Autocracies: Evidence from Hong Kong

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2017

Abstract

To authoritarian rulers, holding somewhat competitive elections enhances legitimacy, but entails political risks. Committing electoral fraud can secure victory, but may jeopardize regime legitimacy. However, there is a tool of electoral manipulation that allows authoritarian rulers to reduce electoral risk while preserving legitimacy: gerrymandering. This article undertakes a systematic study of gerrymandering in Hong Kong, using a dataset that documents boundary changes at the level of residential buildings. The empirical findings show a significant partisan bias in electoral redistricting: opposition constituencies are more likely to be redistricted. Redistricting, however, fails to deter opposition incumbents from seeking re-election. No significant negative relationship is found between redistricting and opposition incumbents’ vote share, although redistricting does reduce their overall chances of re-election. The results suggest that gerrymandering, which involves the use of packing and cracking strategies in different districts, can be employed to undermine the aggregate electoral performance of the opposition parties.

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© Cambridge University Press 2017 

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Footnotes

*

Department of Applied Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (email: shw.wong@polyu.edu.hk). I thank the three anonymous reviewers, Martin Dimitrov, Barbara Geddes, Bernard Grofman, Franziska Keller, Karl Ho, Iris Hui, Lianjiang Li, Ngok Ma, Dorothy Solinger, Hiroki Takeuchi and Daniel Treisman for helpful comments. I am grateful to Kelvin Chan and Tim Tang for excellent research assistance. All remaining errors are my own. The research is funded by an internal grant of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Data replication sets are available at http://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/BJPolS.

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