It’s natural to think of elections when we think of political corruption. People or organisations with their own agendas can skew voting. They may secretly give parties big donations. Or parties and candidates can buy votes instead of winning them.
But political corruption isn’t just about election rigging. It can lead politicians in office to steer away from good government. Their decisions can benefit those who fund them. The public interest comes second. Political corruption can divert scarce resources from poor and disadvantaged people. This is especially common in countries where democratic institutions are weak or absent. Private rather than public interests dictate policy.
This means an ethical line has been crossed. Governments can’t act freely and democracy can’t function. Our trust in politicians is damaged. We can turn away from involvement with how we’re governed. Then political corruption continues unchecked. The solution?
Political corruption can feel daunting and remote. So can we really do anything about it? If we speak out about how we’re governed, we can.
We need to call on our politicians and public officials to be accountable for their actions. How can we trust them if we don’t know what they’re doing? We must demand that they put in place regulations which will force them to act openly. Then corruption can’t hide. And our trust in the political process will improve. When leaders act transparently, showing us clearly what they do, we can make informed choices when we vote. And we can hold them to account once elected.
From grassroots groups to big organisations, civil society has a crucial role to play. We can monitor electoral campaigns and parties’ activities. If state resources are abused, we must report it. And if regulations to prevent corruption aren’t in place, we must demand them. Rules about politicians’ conflicts of interest, for example. Or regulations to stop corporate lobbying and political funding from distorting the democratic process. If companies publish their donations, they can show their contributions aren’t intended to win favours.
By speaking out, we can show that everyone gains from honest elections and open decision-making. Even politicians.
About Transparency International: Based in Brussels, Transparency International gives voice to the victims and witnesses of corruption. It works with governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals.
PS: PCRM has no professional or any kind of affiliation with Transparency International.