Repeat Candidates, Incumbency Rates, and the Role of Populism

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Repeat Candidates, Incumbency Rates, and the Role of Populism

Repeat Candidates and Incumbency Rates

Political parties in India often repeat candidates with competitive populism, even if they face charges of criminality or corruption. This practice is driven by the belief that these candidates have a higher chance of winning elections.

However, India's incumbency strike rate, the rate at which incumbent candidates are re-elected, is lower compared to other democracies. This could be due to several factors, including higher public perceptions of corruption and greater allocation of resources to individual legislators.

In the 2019 elections, fewer candidates fought for re-election compared to previous decades. This trend could be attributed to various factors, including anti-incumbency sentiment and the perception that new candidates have a better chance of winning.

State-wise data on incumbency rates shows significant variation. Gujarat re-elected 100% of its incumbent candidates in 2019, while Tamil Nadu re-elected none. This suggests that winnability is a key factor for parties when choosing candidates, regardless of their past records.

A 2023 study published in the British Journal of Political Science analyzed incumbency rates across 68 democracies. The study found that India's incumbency rate is significantly lower than countries like the UK and Japan. This could be due to factors such as perceived corruption levels and restrictions on legislators using resources for personal gain.