Why do some citizens receive better municipal services than others? Comparative political economy is deeply concerned with this question, but most answers so far suggest that unequal access to these services is determined by either class or partisan voting.
Our research in Pakistan found that the unequal provision of functional municipal services is a particular challenge in the central neighbourhoods of megacities in emerging democracies. What explains this trend? The difference in urban citizens’ access to services in Lahore appears to be linked to the density of party worker networks at the local level, and to levels of electoral competition faced by political representatives.
This is an important finding for policy purposes because it establishes the intrinsic value of multiparty competition, which, in and of itself, can make politicians more responsive to citizens’ demands for the provision of services, even when institutions are weak. These findings suggest that improvements to service delivery will require institutional reforms that strengthen channels of political accountability at the local level.