Monika Nalepa, Konstantin Sonin

How Does Kompromat Affect Politics? A Model of Transparency Regimes

Abstract: Why are transparency regimes, such as lustration, relatively rare? When some politicians have something to conceal, why would their opponents not press for transparency? To analyze transitional justice, we build a model that explains why uncompromised politicians might avoid a transparency regime, which could signal to voters that they are clean. We model the interaction between an incumbent, an opposition leader, a strategic blackmailer, and voters who know that the opposition politician may be compromised. The incumbent can implement a transparency regime, which by forcing out a compromised opponent would make blackmail impossible. We show that, because it is easier to defeat a potentially compromised opponent, she might strategically refrain from transparency and keep all skeletons of the ancien régime in the closet. We corroborate our results using original data from the Global Transitional Justice Dataset combined with data on elections, incumbency, and successor autocrat status in postcommunist Europe.

Quarterly Journal of Political Science

The University of Chicago