Imperfect Recall: The Politics of Subnational Office Removals


Why do some citizens remove the same politicians that they elected from office? This article examines the use of recall referenda, an increasingly prevalent process in which citizens organize a vote to remove politicians from office before they complete their terms. Although celebrated as a tool to improve electoral accountability, we argue that recall referenda are organized to pursue political vendettas. We test this claim using an original data set on the different stages leading to subnational recalls in Peru. Recalls are initiated more often when politicians lose by narrow vote margins and when women hold office. Once put to a vote, citizens do use office performance to decide whether to retain their politicians. Losing politicians organized fewer recall referenda following an institutional reform that allowed politicians to name their successors. The implication is that recall referenda create weak incentives to improve office performance, but careful institutional design can improve their functioning.

Comparative Political Studies
José Incio
José Incio
Ph.D in Political Science

My research interests include democratic backsliding, subnational politics, methodology.