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date: 28 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the rules that govern election timing in democracies. It begins by distinguishing between constitutionally fixed (exogenous) and constitutionally flexible (endogenous) election timing, reviews which political actors can call early elections when endogenous election timing is permitted, and notes that early elections are heterogeneous and can be of two distinct types—either triggered by government failure or called for partisan advantage. Next, the chapter summarizes the current understanding of the consequences of election timing rules for four important political outcomes: gridlock resolution, the electoral performance of incumbents, the bargaining power of various political actors in negotiating governments and policy, and the rhythm of policy cycles. Together the findings reviewed in this chapter show that election timing rules are highly consequential: they shape election outcomes, accountability, and policy, with significant implications for governance and voter welfare.

Keywords: endogenous election timing, exogenous election timing, fixed term parliaments, opportunistic elections, failure elections, regular elections, political-economic cycles, incumbency advantages

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