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Do We Need Democracy To Deal With Corruption?

Democracy Corruption

Do We Need Democracy To Deal With Corruption?

We’ve heard it all before right – a strongman rises to power on claims that they will deal with corruption – that democracy with its flaws leads to the flourishing of corruption, as influence and power can be bought and sold, that it’s in the national interest to have a strong leader who is not accountable to deal with corruption – You may live in a country with just such a leader and this all sounds too familiar or you may be thinking of the leader of a country right now who used this very approach. Not surprisingly this strongman leader is not exactly telling the whole story – this is wholly different.

Research from the good folks at the Quality of Government Institute at the University of Gothenburg has been looking at Democratic Advantages In Corruption Control. The research conducted by Nan Zhang show’s that there is, in fact, a positive relationship between democratic institutions and anti-corruption enforcement.

When we look at what constitutes democratic institutions we can see how having institutions such as a free press & an independent judiciary certainly make it easier to sanction corruption across the board. Previous research has highlighted that parties don’t necessarily always get penalized or sanctioned at the ballot box for corruption – but that horizontal accountability can improve when institutions like a free press and an independent judiciary are allowed to exist.

One of the core arguments presented by Nan Zhang is not necessarily that election as a component of democracy can have a positive or negative effect on corruption but more broadly that liberal democratic institutions can aide in the fight against corruption, that simply having elections is not enough but that it’s about a flourishing and open civic sphere which allows for power to be challenged and held accountable.

This is an important consideration that many anti-corruption activists need to take account of, that not only can elections be treated as the determinative component in the fight against corruption but rather, that a plethora of other constituent parts of democracy are needed before we can advance in the fight against corruption – it is why activists need to be observant in the ways in which we watch for encroachment on victories in the fight against corruption in many countries, it won’t always happen at the ballot box, and democracy is about much more than simply voting every number of years, but about protecting the institutions that allow such a system of governance to exist and thrive.

It’s why we here in Anti Corruption International hold firm to our democratic beliefs and principles that the way in which we can work towards addressing corruption is by encouraging participation in the democratic process to effect change in the fight against corruption by young people, who are often accused of being apathetic to voting and democracy.

If you would like to read more about this topic you can find out more here: 


Jason Deegan

Jason Deegan is a PhD Candidate (Stipendiat) and research fellow at the University of Stavanger. His work primarily focuses on; Innovation, Regional Studies, Smart Specialisation and Policy.

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