Incumbent governments commonly increase public expenditures prior to elections in order to curry favor with voters and boost their chances of retaining office. This study, set in Albania, focuses on a non-fiscal approach to winning votes: condoning, or at least tolerating, informal construction activities in the residential sector prior to elections. We term this approach ‘election-driven informality’ (EDI). This study provides longitudinal statistical evidence for EDI using a proxy indicator for informal construction. We hypothesize and prove that EDI is a reality rather than a mere perception – primarily for the 2017 election. That was when the government’s enforcement capacity in the construction sector was effective outside the election period. In a context where there is little moral value attached to law abidance, businesses or households that engage in informal economic activities might perceive a tolerant government as “magnanimous” and might be persuaded to support it in upcoming elections. From government’s perspective, EDI presents an opportunity for a version of “pork barrel” politics where “tolerance” is applied selectively or differentially to households, businesses, or whole regions.
Title: Informal construction as political currency: A theory of ‘election-driven informality’
Authors: Drini Imami, Endrit Lami, Dorina Pojani
Journal: Land Use Policy