This article investigates the effect of democratisation on political budget cycles (PBCs). Challenging the existing literature, we demonstrate that democratisation has a non-linear effect on PBCs along the regime spectrum: positive at the autocratic end, negative at the democratic end. We explain this finding by the countervailing effects of executive constraints and political competition as two dimensions of democratisation. While the former contains PBCs, the latter stimulates them. Because of the empirical covariation between the two, PBCs occur primarily in hybrid regimes where executive decision-making powers are relatively unrestricted and politics is beginning to be competitive. We also show that while executive constraints and political competition condition PBCs, what triggers the fluctuations is electoral competitiveness. Only when incumbents fear electoral defeat, do they create PBCs. The study is based on a new dataset on public spending in 87 non-OECD countries, covering the period from 1960 to 2006.
Halfdan Lynge-Mangueira is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford. His research in comparative politics and political economy focuses on electoral mobilisation, manipulation, and dispute resolution. Prior to commencing his doctoral research, Halfdan Lynge-Mangueira spent five years with the UN in Bangladesh, Mozambique, and Ethiopia, as a political advisor and democratic governance specialist. He holds MSc and BSc degrees in politics from the University of Copenhagen