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Electoral incentives, terms limits, and the sustainability of peace

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>01/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>European Journal of Political Economy
Volume51
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)15-26
<mark>State</mark>Published
Early online date13/04/17
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

One of the few stylized facts in international relations is that democracies, unlike autocracies, almost never fight each other. Recent empirical findings show that binding term limits invalidate this result: democratic dyads in which at least one country imposes term limits on the executive are as conflict prone as autocratic and mixed dyads. Moreover, in democracies with two-term limits conflicts are more likely during the executive's second term. To rationalize these findings, we model international relations as a repeated prisoners' dilemma. We show that the fear of losing office makes democratic leaders less willing to start costly conflicts. Crucially, this discipline effect can only be at work if incumbent leaders can run for re-election. Term limits thus make it harder to sustain peaceful relations.

Bibliographic note

This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in European Journal of Political Economy. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in European Journal of Political Economy 51, 2018 DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpoleco.2017.04.002