The Real Winner´s Curse

Juan Fernando Vargas Duque, Leopoldo Fergusson, Alejandro Ruiz-Guarin, Pablo Querubin

Research output: Working paper


We study the effect on violence of the arrival of previously excluded groups (in particular,
left-leaning parties) to local executive office in Colombian municipalities. Using a regression
discontinuity approach, we show that while violence from left-wing guerrillas and the government
is unaffected when the left wins mayoral elections, attacks by right-wing paramilitaries
increase by about four to five per 100,000 inhabitants, almost a tripling relative to the sample
mean and close to 80%-100% of a standard deviation. We interpret this increase in violence
as a de facto reaction of traditional political and economic elites trying to counteract the increase
in de jure power of outsiders after they win office. Consistent with this interpretation,
we find that the surge in violence is concentrated in the year of the subsequent elections
and as a result left wing incumbents enjoy an incumbency disadvantage larger than other
incumbent parties in Colombia. We also find (more tentative evidence) that the left implements
land policies that are threatening to the most notorious allies of paramilitaries: large
landowners. These effects highlight the unintended risks of political inclusion in societies
with weak institutions, an uneven presence of the state across its territory, and features of
subnational authoritarianism.
Translated title of the contributionLa verdadera maldición del ganador
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages58
StatePublished - May 25 2016


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