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The long-term electoral legacies of civil war in young democracies. Evidence from Italy

30 May 2017
San Francesco - Via della Quarquonia 1 (Classroom 1 )
Recent experience of civil war has political consequences on newly created democracies and their electoral dynamics. However, we know hardly anything about the long-term legacies of civil wars on the local electoral geography of democracies that emerge from conflicts. We argue that parties that derive from armed bands enjoy an organizational advantage in the areas where those bands fought and won the war. Former combatants transformed into political entrepreneurs are able to set up a strong local party organization that constitutes a crucial mobilization tool in times of elections. Moreover, parties have strong incentives to institutionalize their organizational advantage and keep their electoral strongholds over time. We use new spatially disaggregated data on armed groups' location, violent episodes, local party organization and the results of six rounds of national elections over more than twenty years (1946-1968) to test our theory on the case of Italy. Our findings indicate that – accounting for pre-war political milieu – the communist party created a stronger organization in areas where the communist bands fought the resistance war against Nazi-fascist forces. A stronger organization is positively correlated with a higher vote share for the Left and these results are stable for many years after the conflict.