When Do Conflicting Parties Share Political Power? An Experimental Study

40 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2014

See all articles by Marco Battaglini

Marco Battaglini

Princeton University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Lydia Mechtenberg

University of Hamburg

Date Written: January 30, 2014


We conduct a laboratory experiment to study the incentives of a privileged group to share political power with another group when the two have conflicting interests. There are two groups of participants, the “yellows” and the “blues”. The yellows collectively choose the voting rule for a general election: a simple majority rule that favors them, or a proportional rule. In two control treatments the blues can use a costly punishment option: they can punish the yellows after the outcome of the election, or after the choice of the electoral rule, but before the election. We find that the yellow group shares power voluntarily only to a small extent, but is more inclined to do so under the threat of punishment, despite the fact that punishment is not optimal in the continuation game. The blue group conditions punishment both on the voting rule and the electoral outcome: They are more inclined to punish an unfavorable outcome under the proportional rule. The evidence suggests that power sharing arises from the (suboptimal) willingness of the minority to punish selfish behavior.

Keywords: Behavioral Economics, Constitutional Design, Elections, Endogenous Institutions, Experiment

JEL Classification: C92, D02, D72, D79

Suggested Citation

Battaglini, Marco and Mechtenberg, Lydia, When Do Conflicting Parties Share Political Power? An Experimental Study (January 30, 2014). Princeton University William S. Dietrich II Economic Theory Center Research Paper No. 057, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2388328 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2388328

Marco Battaglini (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Economics ( email )

213 Fisher Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States
609-258-4002 (Phone)
609-258-6419 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

Lydia Mechtenberg

University of Hamburg ( email )

Allende-Platz 1
Hamburg, 20146

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