Deterrence and Compellence in Parliament

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In most countries, parliamentary immunity protects lawmakers from civil or criminal charges while in office, and it shields them from prosecution for their political speech and actions. We present the first empirical analysis of the impact of parliamentary immunity on the behavior and performance of politicians. Leveraging a constitutional amendment that lifted the immunity of 24 percent of the members of the Turkish Parliament (MPs), we find that losing immunity from prosecution pacifies opposition MPs, who become less diligent (drafting and initiating fewer pieces of legislation or inquiries, delivering fewer and shorter speeches) and less aggressive (interrupting other MPs less frequently). Their tendency to cast dissenting votes against the government is also reduced. These MPs are less likely to be renominated by their parties for the next election, and they are less likely to be reelected. The loss of immunity has no impact on government-aligned MPs.

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