Discussion paper

DP11641 Organized Crime, Violence, and Politics

We show that in Sicily Mafia killings of politicians increase before elections and have negative effects on the vote received by parties not captured by the Mafia. Then, using a very large data set of electoral speeches, we find strong evidence that anti-mafia activities by politicians
elected in Sicily are, in fact, negatively correlated with the levels of pre-electoral violence. Using data on homicides in all regions of Italy starting from the end of the nineteenth century, we identify a political cycle of homicides only in regions with organized crime. We also show how this electoral cycle changes as a function of different electoral rules and the relative strength of captured and non-captured parties. All these empirical findings are rationalized by a simple signaling model in which criminal organizations exert pre-electoral violence to inform adverse politicians about their military strength.


Pinotti, P, A Alesina and S Piccolo (eds) (2016), “DP11641 Organized Crime, Violence, and Politics”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 11641. https://cepr.org/publications/dp11641