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Independents play a key role in shaping election results

More than 3,000 independent candidates contested the 2014 general election but only three won. This would suggest that independent candidates play a minor role in Indian politics; however, a new study suggests the opposite may be true.

More than 3,000 independent candidates contested the 2014 general election but only three won. This would suggest that independent candidates play a minor role in Indian politics; however, a new study suggests the opposite may be true. 

In an American Political Science Review paper, Sacha Kapoor of the University of Rotterdam and Arvind Magesan of the University of Calgary show that a rise in the number of independents increases voter turnout and total vote share for independents, while reducing the vote share of the winner. To identify this effect, Kapoor and Magesan compare election data before and after the Election Commission of India significantly increased the candidate deposit requirements (to control the large number of candidates contesting elections). They find that not only did the increase in deposits result in a drop in participation of independents, it also reduced voter turnout. Given that the increase in deposit requirements was higher for general candidates, the decline in independent candidate participation was greater in general constituencies compared with reserved constituencies. 

According to the authors, the presence of more independent candidates induced voters to step out and vote, and get existing voters to switch their votes. They suggest that this is because independent candidates provide voters with better opportunities to express their preferences. The authors also find that independents increase the chances of votes for regional parties at the expense of votes for coalition of parties, that forms the national government. According to the study, independents thus generate a trade-off between giving voters better opportunities for preference expression and better representation in the government.

The authors conclude that independents play an important role in elections: they increase citizen knowledge about alternative policies and can facilitate the selection of representatives who are more responsive to their constituents.

Also read: Independent Candidates and Political Representation in India (bit.ly/2QQWOq5)

More than 3,000 independent candidates contested the 2014 general election but only three won. This would suggest that independent candidates play a minor role in Indian politics; however, a new study suggests the opposite may be true. 

In an American Political Science Review paper, Sacha Kapoor of the University of Rotterdam and Arvind Magesan of the University of Calgary show that a rise in the number of independents increases voter turnout and total vote share for independents, while reducing the vote share of the winner. To identify this effect, Kapoor and Magesan compare election data before and after the Election Commission of India significantly increased the candidate deposit requirements (to control the large number of candidates contesting elections). They find that not only did the increase in deposits result in a drop in participation of independents, it also reduced voter turnout. Given that the increase in deposit requirements was higher for general candidates, the decline in independent candidate participation was greater in general constituencies compared with reserved constituencies. 

According to the authors, the presence of more independent candidates induced voters to step out and vote, and get existing voters to switch their votes. They suggest that this is because independent candidates provide voters with better opportunities to express their preferences. The authors also find that independents increase the chances of votes for regional parties at the expense of votes for coalition of parties, that forms the national government. According to the study, independents thus generate a trade-off between giving voters better opportunities for preference expression and better representation in the government.

The authors conclude that independents play an important role in elections: they increase citizen knowledge about alternative policies and can facilitate the selection of representatives who are more responsive to their constituents.

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