Democracy All the Way Down




Turner, Jacob. “Democracy All the Way Down: Electoral Contestation and Violent Crime in Salvadoran Municipalities.” In Progress


One of the most disappointing features of the post-Cold War era has been that many third-wave democracies failed to become the peaceful, prosperous societies that proponents of democracy had long promised. In regions such as Central America, ravaged by civil war and repressive authoritarian rule for decades, the emergence of criminal violence at levels approaching those of traditional civil wars has been particularly disheartening. However, the distribution of criminal violence across national territories does not necessarily follow patterns of pre-transition wartime violence, suggesting that changes during democratic transitions affect how and where violence is likely to emerge. Leveraging subnational variation in electoral competitiveness in Salvadoran municipalities and quasi-experimental techniques, this paper seeks to contribute to the agenda on criminal violence and subnational regimes by investigating whether a competitive local electoral system impacts the emergence of criminal violence at the municipal level. The findings demonstrate that local democratic rule can help to mitigate criminal violence, but that greater uncertainty surrounding competitive elections can reduce the magnitude of this effect.