DP10873 Electoral Incentives, Term Limits and the Sustainability of Peace
One of the few stylized facts in international relations is that democracies, unlike autocracies, almost never fight each other. We develop a theoretical model to examine the sustainability of international peace between democracies and autocracies, where the crucial difference between these two political regimes is whether or not policymakers are subject to periodic elections. We show that the fear of losing office can make it less tempting for democratic leaders to wage war against other countries. Crucially, this discipline effect can only be at work if incumbent leaders can be re-elected, suggesting that democracies with term limits should be more conflict prone, particularly when the executive is serving the last possible term. These results rationalize recent empirical findings on how term limits affect the propensity of democracies to engage in conflicts.