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Legislative Malfeasance and Political Accountability

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2010

Eric C. C. Chang
Affiliation:
Michigan State University, Email: echang@msu.edu
Miriam A. Golden
Affiliation:
University of California at Los Angeles, Email: golden@ucla.edu
Seth J. Hill
Affiliation:
University of California, Los Angeles, Email: sjhill@ucla.edu

Abstract

Utilizing a unique data set from the Italian Ministry of Justice reporting the transmission to the Chamber of Deputies of more than the thousand requests for the removal of parliamentary immunity from deputies suspected of criminal wrongdoing, the authors analyze the political careers of members of the Chamber during the first eleven postwar legislatures (1948–94). They find that judicial investigation typically did not discourage deputies from standing for reelection in Italy's large multimember electoral districts. They also show that voters did not punish allegedly malfeasant legislators with loss of office until the last (Eleventh) legislature in the sample. To account for the dramatic change in voter behavior that occurred in the early 1990s, the investigation focuses on the roles of the judiciary and the press. The results are consistent with a theory that a vigilant and free press is a necessary condition for political accountability in democratic settings. An independent judiciary alone is ineffective in ensuring electoral accountability if the public is not informed of political malfeasance.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 2010

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