September 2018

IZA DP No. 11865: Term Limit Extension and Electoral Participation: Evidence from a Diff-in-Discontinuities Design at the Local Level in Italy

Marco Alberto De Benedetto, Maria De Paola

published in: European Journal of Political Economy, 2019, 59, pp.196-211

We study the effect of term limits on voter turnout in local Italian elections. Since 2014 the Italian law allows mayors in municipalities with a population size lower than 3,000 inhabitants to re-run for a third term, whereas mayors in cities with a number of residents above the cutoff still face a two-term limit. The introduction of the reform permits us to implement a difference-in-discontinuities design exploiting the before/after with the discontinuous policy change. We find that voters negatively react to the introduction of the reform and in particular electoral participation decreases by about 5 percentage points in municipalities eligible to the treatment compared to municipalities in the control group. This negative effect is essentially driven by a decrease in the political competition. We also find that relaxing term limits does not improve the quality of politicians running for election.