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Petra Schleiter and Alisa M Voznaya, "Party system competitiveness and corruption," Party Politics, 20 (September, 2014), 675-686. [Available at ]

First paragraph:
Even in fully democratic political systems governmental corruption is strikingly common. This raises a series of questions: Why does democratic competition sometimes fail to curb malfeasance? Why can elections help corrupt politicians to power? and Why do voters often fail to punish corrupt or under-performing incumbents? These questions are puzzling because electoral competition should in principle allow voters to select politicians who will curb corruption and to replace representatives who do not. Yet, empirically, this is often not the case. This article examines under what conditions electoral competition can fail to secure clean government in the interest of the people. Our argument is that party system competitiveness, which shapes the effectiveness of elections as tools to select and control politicians, plays a critical role in conditioning the scope for governmental corruption.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Party system competitiveness and corruption perceptions.
Table 2. Magnitude of predicted changes in corruption scores.

Last Paragraph:
The findings presented here open up wider research agendas in two respects. Our results clearly make only a first step towards causal inference. Given the large-N character of this study, we are able to demonstrate a constant conjunction and correlation between party system competitiveness and corruption that is consistent with the expectations we derive. These results, though, will need to be probed further through case studies that can examine the causal mechanisms we outline and investigate counterfactuals (Brady, 2008: 218-9.). Moreover, party system competitiveness is of course only one aspect of a wider range of party system features and, given our results in this study, it is not unreasonable to expect that party system institutionalization and programmatic structuration, too, may affect the scope for corruption. These are interesting and important questions which we reserve for future research.

Last updated November 2014