The outbreak of COVID-19 has called for swift action by governments, often involving the adoption of restrictive measures such as lockdowns . In this context, leaders have faced a trade-off between imposing stringent measures to limit the contagion, and minimizing the short-run costs on their national economy, which could impact their electoral prospects . Leveraging on both the timing of elections and the constitutional term limits faced by leaders in presidential systems, we document how incumbents who can run for re-election implement less stringent restrictions when the election is closer in time . The effect is driven by measures more likely to have a negative economic impact . This shows how electoral concerns help explain the observed differences in the response to the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic across different countries.
Index: COVID-19, Elections, Lockdown, Public health, Public policy, Restrictions