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

Editor’s Note: A version of this paper is published in Public Choice (registration required) »


In the 2002 election, candidates for Pakistans federal legislature had to possess at least
a bachelors degree. This policy disqualied 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 disqualied incumbents equally. Stronger
political competition is dened 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 Herndahl-Hirschman index (HHI) of vote shares. Competition declined
signicantly in constituencies where the disqualied 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 disqualied incumbent was stronger in
terms of his winning vote margin.