We are all too familiar with the situation, a politician is engaged or has been engaged in a corruption scandal and an election is on the horizon – you hope and pray that this is the time for the electorate to teach them a lesson, that corruption & abuse of power won’t be tolerated – you’ve been in this position right? It sometimes feel like we all have. You are both dumbfounded and outraged that the electorate doesn’t punish corruption & abuse of power but instead the politician or party in question is re-elected.
You begin the process of frantically googling to figure out why this has happened – well let us try to explain why this happened with the help of Andreas Bågenholm &
Nocholas Charron of the University of Gothenburg who wrote a very informative piece on why this is likely to happen.
Their argument is that the ideological position of the voter together with the number of reasonable party alternatives explains why citizens would continue voting for their preferred party despite it being involved in a corruption scandal The identify that there is a supply & demand issue, with voters seeking effective party alternatives alongside where these effective alternatives are in line with their ideologies or political beliefs.
Their argument is a convincing one – that may explain why those accused of corruption consistently are not punished by the electorate – that their position of the political spectrum determines their ability to survive corruption allegations, Richard Nixon still had the support of 50%+ of republicans in the depths of the Watergate scandal.
When looking for the rationale behind such behavior, we can perhaps look at the above research as an indication as to why this happens so frequently, that party and ideological loyalty remains above any real concerted committment to tackling corruption. We’ve all seen a situation where corruption scandals are used as political weapons against opponents, however perhaps, ironically the use of this weapon means your opponents are forced to either engage in willful ignorance or ignore the demonstrable damage corruption can cause to defend their ideological position.
Have your say in the comments below – is political partisanship undermining a key accountability mechanism available in the democratic process? We would be especially interested in whether you believe that such examples are playing out now on the world stage (or in your local political climate) and if so where?