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Juan Morales (University of Toronto)

22 February 2017 @ 12:00


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22 February 2017
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“Legislating During War: Conflict and Politics in Colombia”

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For many countries, the escape from weak governance and cycles of violence is today the most challenging step in their path to prosperity. This paper studies an important aspect of this challenge: the relationship between civil conflict and congressional decision-making. I study this relationship in the context of Colombia, an electoral democracy currently undergoing a peace process to resolve what is the longest enduring conflict in the Americas. More specifically, I examine how politicians and their constituents respond to attacks by FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group. To measure these responses, I use data from politicians’ Twitter accounts and roll-call voting records, and employ both an event study and a difference-in-differences research design. I use text analysis to measure the ”political leaning” of politicians’ tweets, and find that both tweets from incumbent politicians and tweets which exhibit “right-wing” language receive higher user engagement (a proxy for popular support) following rebel attacks. The legislative decision-making responses are more complex. Before the government started negotiations with the rebels, politicians in congress were more likely to align their legislative votes with the right-leaning ruling party following an attack. However, this relationship breaks down after the start of the peace process. In addition, politicians are more responsive to attacks which occur in their electoral district. The empirical results are consistent with a political economy model of legislative behaviour in which events that shift median voter preferences, and the presence of rally ’round the flag effects, elicit different politician responses depending on the policy position of the ruling party.