Dr Ruggeri on "The Long-Term Electoral Legacies of Civil War in Young Democracies: Italy, 1946-1968"

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    Photo: Ballot paper, Italian institutional referendum (1946)
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Dr Andrea Ruggeri, Associate Professor of Quantitative Methods in International Relations, and Stefano Costalli, of the Università di Firenze, have published a research article in Comparative Political Studies (CPS) journal.

 “Without a guiding organisation the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston-box. But nevertheless what moves things is not the piston or the box, but the steam.” —Leon Trotsky (1932)


Are there long-term legacies of civil wars on the electoral geography of post-conflict democracies? We argue that parties derived from armed bands enjoy an organizational advantage in areas where they fought and won the war. Former combatants can create a strong local party organization that serves as a crucial mobilization tool for elections. Parties have strong incentives to institutionalize this organizational advantage and retain electoral strongholds over time. We test our theory on the case of Italy (1946-1968). Our findings indicate that, on average, the communist party managed to create a stronger organization in areas where its bands fought the resistance war against Nazi-Fascist forces—and left-wing parties had a better electoral performance in those areas in subsequent elections. A stronger party organization is correlated with a positive electoral performance for many years, while the direct effect of civil war on electoral patterns decays after few years.

Professor Andrea Ruggeri is Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Brasenose College