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Political Openness and Armed Conflict Evidence from Local Councils in Colombia

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Document pages: 63 pages

Abstract: In this paper, I empirically investigate how the openness of politicalinstitutions to diverse representation can impact conflict-related violence. Byexploiting plausibly exogenous variations in the number of councillors inColombian municipalities, I develop two sets of results. First, regressiondiscontinuity estimates show that larger municipal councils have a considerablygreater number of political parties with at least one elected representative. Iinterpret this result as evidence that larger municipal councils are more opento diverse political participation. The estimates also reveal thatnon-traditional parties are the main beneficiaries of this greater politicalopenness. Second, regression discontinuity estimates show that politicalopenness substantially decreases conflict-related violence, namely the killingof civilian non-combatants. By exploiting plausibly exogenous variations inlocal election results, I show that the lower level of political violence stemsfrom greater participation by parties with close links to armed groups. Usingdata about the types of violence employed by these groups, and representationat higher levels of government, I argue that armed violence has decreased notbecause of power-sharing arrangements involving armed groups linked to theparties with more political representation, but rather because armed groupswith less political power and visibility are deterred from initiating certaintypes of violence.

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