Drugs and Votes: Colombia’s (ex-) Senator Araujo

Colombia’s Senator Alvaro Araujo made headlines this past week when he was arrested for suspicion of ties to paramilitaries involved in the drug trade.

Over at Steven Taylor’s new Colombian politics blog, I asked whether the Senator was a “list puller” (i.e. lots of preference votes) or trailer. That is, might we infer whether he was elected because of, or in spite of, his allies?

In 2006, the first election in Colombia using a list PR system* (with parties having the option of presenting open or closed lists), Araujo was elected on the (open) list of the Movimiento Alas Equipo Colombia (quite a name). As has been widely reported, this party was indeed one of several that President Alvaro Uribe endorsed prior to the 2006 elections.

The list won 439,678 votes, and 20% of these were cast just for the list. Alvaro Araujo Castro won 66,234, the second highest total of any of the party’s candidates and 15.1% of the party total. (Oscar Suarez Mira won 15.3% and no other candidate had more than 7.7%.) The party elected five senators.

Looks like Araujo was the very definition of a list-puller.

In fact, Araujo was one of the most popular candidates in the election. His preference vote total was the 11th highest across all parties in the nationwide district and his share of his own list’s preference votes was the 7th highest of all candidates across all parties.

He was also elected to the senate in 2002, when the electoral system was essentially SNTV. That is, rather than run on party lists, each legislator was elected on a “personal list” based on how many votes he or she obtained as a candidate.** In that election, Araujo won 77,891 votes, the 16th highest in the 100-seat national district.

This, of course, does not “prove” that his drug and paramilitary ties bought him votes, but it sure doesn’t look like the connection hurt him.

There have been several members of the current Colombian congress arrested or implicated. If someone can provide this lazy blogger with their names, I will look them up in my data files.


* For details, just click on “Colombia” at the top of the post and scroll. The elections were last March, and before and after I posted quite a bit on the reformed electoral system and its impact.

* * There were a few exceptions, where one of these lists obtained enough votes to elect more than one candidate, but the vast majority were elected as the only winning candidate on their own list.

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