“Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Explaining Political Ambition by Electoral Success in Brazil

Carlos Pereira, Lucio Rennó


Why run for reelection when the logic and incentives of the political system leave no doubt that running for other offices is a better option? This paper focuses on the factors that influence both the choice of career and the electoral success of those who run for reelection and those who attempt to obtain other offices, using Brazil as a case study, a typically fragmented, multiparty environment with a strong executive. We argue that legislators run for reelection because it is the safest bet for them. The probability of winning is higher for those who attempt reelection than for those running for any other office. Because static ambition is conditioned by election results and not by the intrinsic desire to develop a career in the legislative branch, career paths do not necessarily lead to improvements in legislative professionalization and institutionalization. This finding contradicts theories that relate career paths to legislative institutionalization.

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