The Politics of Education Reform in Tanzania

Ken Opalo
Wed April 21st 2021, 12:00 - 1:00pm

A large literature documents the electoral benefits of clientelistic and programmatic policies in low-income states. We extend this literature by showing the cyclical electoral responses to a large programmatic intervention to expand access to secondary education in Tanzania over multiple electoral periods. Using a difference-in-difference approach, we find that the incumbent party’s vote share increased by 2 percentage points in the election following the policy’s announcement as a campaign promise (2005), but decreased by -1.4 percentage points in the election following implementation (2010). We find no discernible electoral impact of the policy in 2015, two electoral cycles later. We attribute the electoral penalty in 2010 to how the secondary school expansion policy was implemented. Our findings shed light on the temporally-contingent electoral impacts of programmatic policies, and highlight the need for more research on how policy implementation structures public opinion and vote choice in low-income states. 


Speaker Bio

Ken Opalo is an Assistant Professor in the School of Foreign Service. His research interests include the political economy of development, legislative development, electoral accountability under decentralized government, and electoral politics in emerging democracies. Ken’s first book, Legislative Development in Africa: Politics and Postcolonial Legacies (Cambridge University Press, 2019), examines the evolution of legislatures in emerging democracies, with a focus on explaining the observed variation in the institutionalization and strength of legislatures in African states. Ken's work has been published in the British Journal of Political Science, Governance, the Journal of Eastern African Studies, and the Journal of Democracy.