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How Abolishing School Fees Increased Support for the Incumbent in Burundi

Institutions & Governance

Abstract: This article addresses the question of whether voters reward politicians for the provision of public goods by looking at citizens’ responses to the provision of primary education in Burundi. It focuses on the abolition of primary school fees in 2005, using original data on district-level campaign rhetoric as well as access to and quality of public education. Based on these data, this article shows that in Burundi, the incumbent president extensively advertised the implementation of the policy during its campaign in the subsequent election in 2010 and that the voters did, in turn, respond with increased electoral support when access to public schools in their locality improved. It further shows that this process was not driven by ethnic and political affiliations, but rather cut across such identities. The positive impact of abolishing school fees was in fact equally strong in localities where the incumbent was not expected to win. An analysis of Afrobarometer survey data corroborates the mechanism at the individual level, indicating that satisfaction with the government education policy is strongly associated with support for the incumbent president.

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