Do Barriers to Candidacy Reduce Political Competition? Evidence from a Bachelor'’s Degree Requirement for Legislators in Pakistan


In the 2002 election, candidates for Pakistan’s federal legislature had to possess at least a bachelor’s degree. This policy disquali…ed 60 out of the 207 incumbent legislators from running for election again. Using a di¤erence-in-di¤erences approach with panel data on all electoral constituencies in Pakistan, I …nd that this ballot access restriction does not a¤ect political competition across all constituencies with disquali…ed incumbents equally. Stronger political competition is de…ned as a larger number of candidates contesting election, a smaller vote share and vote margin for the winning candidate, and a less concentrated candidate …eld, as measured by a Her…ndahl-Hirschman index (HHI) of vote shares. Competition declined signi…cantly in constituencies where the disquali…ed incumbent belonged to a small party and where literacy levels were lower (signifying a smaller pool of substitute candidates). However, political competition increased in areas where the disquali…ed incumbent was stronger in terms of his winning vote margin.