Natural disasters and clientelism: the case of floods and landslides in Colombia
AuthorGallego, Jorge A.
What are the effects of natural disasters on electoral results? Some authors claim that catastrophes have a negative effect on the survival of leaders in a democracy because voters have a propensity to punish politicians for not preventing or poorly handling a crisis. In contrast, this paper finds that these events might be beneficial for leaders. Disasters are linked to leader survival through clientelism: they generate an in-flow of resources in the form of aid, which increase money for buying votes. Analyzing the rainy season of 2010-2011 in Colombia, considered its worst disaster in history, I use a difference-in-differences strategy to show that in the local election incumbent parties benefited from the disaster. The result is robust to different specifications and alternative explanations. Moreover, places receiving more aid and those with judicial evidence of vote-buying irregularities, are more likely to reelect the incumbent, supporting the mechanism proposed by this paper.