Speaker: Pradeep Chibber, University of California (Berkeley)
Abstract: This paper shows experimentally that the public endorsement of religious candidates by Shia imams in Herat Province, Afghanistan, had almost no influence on whether Shia voters chose religious candidates in the 2010 parliamentary elections. Sunni voters, on the other hand, did choose overtly religious candidates even though most of the Sunni clergy offered no endorsement of candidates. Shia voters did not vote for religious candidates despite Shia imams, who were part of a far better organized and funded Shia religious institution, openly endorse religious candidates. We argue that the difference in the response of the Shia and Sunni communities to religious candidates can be attributed to the discordance between the political interests of the Shia clergy and the Shia community. This was not the case for the Sunni in Herat for whom the interests of the clergy and the community overlapped considerably. This finding suggests that the ability of religious leaders and religious organizations to influence political outcomes may be limited.