Title

The Political Economy of Constitutional Choice: A Study of the 2005 Kenyan Constitutional Referendum

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Constitutional Political Economy

Volume

21

Issue

1

Publication Date

2010

First Page

1

Last Page

27

Abstract

Recent studies of the linkages between the wealth of nations and the institutions of governance suggest that concentrating political power in a monarchy or a ruling coalition impedes economic growth and, moreover, that while power-diffusing reforms can enhance the wellbeing of society in general, opposition by groups benefiting from the status quo is predictable. In November 2005, Kenyans rejected a proposed constitution that, despite promises made by their new chief executive, would not have lessened the powers of the presidency. Using a unique, constituency-level dataset on the referendum vote, we estimate a model of the demand for power diffusion and find that ethnic groups’ voting decisions are influenced by their expected gains and losses from constitutional change. The results also highlight the importance of ethnic divisions in hindering the power-diffusion process, and thus establish a channel through which ethnic fragmentation adversely impacts economic development.

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