Political life is dynamic, diverse and complex, and institutions are emerging and functioning here that are of fundamental importance for the political development of society, the state and the individual. They become especially important in the conditions of an unstable, indefinite, imitating state of political and other institutions. In this case, they act as a brake on human existence in its separate and holistic, systemic expression, and when it comes to global change, they significantly reduce the level of consciousness, culture, give rise to amorality, greed, selfishness, self-interest, crime and crime. We live in a global world that is tested by many social phenomena, institutions, including political ones. One of such institutions is “political corruption”, which, like other concepts reflecting real phenomena of political reality, has been massively revealed at various levels of government in most states across the globe. In recent years, corruption has become a systemic phenomenon that has hit all spheres and strata of today’s society. Corruption as a social phenomenon can be politically tinged: on the one hand, it is a product of government activity, on the other, it directly influences the formation and functioning of government institutions, largely determines the essence of public authority. Since public authority is, first of all, a system of political institutions, corruption as a form of abuse of this power is a political phenomenon. With this approach, it can be argued that any corruption acts committed by representatives of state power or local self-government have a political meaning and can be considered political corruption. Considering the proposal to attribute all corruption acts to political corruption with political overtones, researchers identify areas of public relations that are most vulnerable to corruption and at the same time closely related to political activities: political party activities, the electoral process, the legislative process, privatization, the budget process.
Political parties can be interpreted in different ways. For our research, two rather frequently cited definitions are of particular importance. According to Max Weber, a political party should be considered as an association based on the basis of (formally) free entry into its ranks, with the aim of giving the leader influence that extends to all members of this community, as well as to obtain (ideal or material) opportunities for active its participants (to realize certain plans or to carry out personal plans, or both,). Such associations can be ephemeral or pre-programmed, their goal is to be able to realize themselves in the society of any system, regardless of the basis on which the participants are included: personal sympathies, traditional approach, and rationalistic calculations. These associations can be focused on personal interests, or on the true goal. The name ‘party’ comes from the Latin ‘pars’ (part) or ‘partire’ (divide). In essence, a political party is a part of a politically active people, that is, a population or citizens. Parties exist where unorganized social groups need the ability to act, a kind of impetus and clarity of goals in the political struggle. Political parties are public organizations, or organized social groups, aware of the goals to which unorganized groups with similar interests aspire, and representing a reference social system in which the interests of all participants can be realized. The fact that in the positions of certain public groups has not yet taken a clear shape and is sometimes unconscious, political parties are transformed into the consciousness and will of the group. The existence of one political party requires two elements: the organization and the program. According to this, political parties are political organizations with political programs whose goals are aimed at coming to power in the state, despite the fact that some parties are guided by far-reaching plans for abolishing any kind of human power over man. Being a sufficiently strong and stable formation, political parties are the simplest form of integration of politically active citizens. They are based on the principle of voluntary membership and voluntary campaigning of voters. By definition, political parties are free associations whose existence is only possible in systems built on the principles of political democracy. In the same cases when this condition does not work, the parties can only ensure their continued existence in society by force. Proving the fact of the presence of political corruption is usually quite difficult, since there is often no direct evidence. In the case of political corruption, first of all, we are talking about the use of political urine in order to obtain material benefits for ourselves and our political party. Often this type of corruption takes place in the field of economic activity, economic and non-economic crime, as well as in the process of passing certain laws. The most important problem of political corruption is the problem of financing political parties. There are a large number of laws that stipulate the process of financing political parties. In these laws, as a rule, we are talking about the restriction of receiving funds during election campaigns. Political parties are also financed from the state budget, another item to replenish the party ‘treasury’ is membership fees, subsidies to individuals and legal entities, profits from own enterprises, interest payments. All of the above brings lots of revenue to the parties, but, despite this, these policy makers without much effort bypass the numerous rules in order to receive additional funds. Much attention is also devoted to political corruption in the European Union, and one of the conditions for joining this organization is the requirement to reduce all forms of corruption, including those related to the political process and political parties. At the same time, the European Union itself exposes numerous corruption scandals related to political parties and their members – most often this involves misappropriation of funds allocated by the European Union to member states and candidate countries. The European Court of Financial Violations for seven years could not reject the claims of the European Union, explaining that the Commission does not have complete and verified information, where the competition would indicate how the funds of the European Union came: directly or through an intermediary. It is becoming increasingly clear that corruption, primarily related to the activities of people holding a high political position, has become a serious problem in many states of the European Union. We are talking about the most influential representatives of this organization: the UK, Germany, France and Italy. According to the cited data, it turns out that the candidate countries to join the European Union are less corrupt than the old members. If we talk about specific examples of corruption on the part of individual politicians and political parties, in this paper we will give a few. At the beginning of 1992 in Italy there was a scandal related to the fact that the Socialist Party (at that time “party of power”) received “gratitude” from a private entrepreneur for having been granted the unique right to provide a certain type of services for the state. The leader of the party Craxi stated that all parties did the same. More than 400 people turned out to be under investigation, among whom were leaders of the Socialist and Social Democratic parties, 9 ministers, 46 deputies, 12 senators, 182 local politicians and government officials. For example, according to the Open Society Foundation, based in France, there were several corruption scandals in France, among them the one that happened to President Jacques Chirac, or in Italy with Silvio Berlusconi, in Germany there were also scandals involving the financing of political parties. All these examples are characterized by the fact that they are associated with the appropriation of funds by individuals and parties, as a result of which certain private firms were able to carry out certain activities. In the Czech Parliament, for example, political parties have an “informal” market in which laws are “sold”. In other words, by paying deputies and their political parties, entrepreneurs and other interested rich people can “buy” the law they need. In 1997 there was a change of government due to the scandal associated with the receipt of money by leading parties from entrepreneurs for the needs of the election campaign. In Romania, this phenomenon is a systemic problem, and in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia, political parties were, and still are, associated with corruption. Within the framework of political philosophy, there are several theories about the basis of political parties: institutional, crisis, modernization, and organizational. According to the first institutional theory, parliament, suffrage, ideology, the role of personal interests and corruption are cited as the reasons for the emergence of parties. Such an opinion about the emergence of political parties due to personal interests and corruption is based on the political practice of the states where the first political associations were founded – in the USA and Great Britain. For example, in the UK, political parties are developing with the help of funds obtained through corruption, while in the US in this way political commitments are gained by electoral committees.
The phenomena of corruption in political parties affects the behaviour of voters. This also applies to participation in elections as such, to the intention to vote for a particular party, and not against a competing party, and to the choice of vote, regardless of which particular party is chosen. The influence of party offense scores persists even when other factors that influence the choice of votes are taken into account. It is assumed that the degree to which individuals differentiate between parties in terms of corruption, and not the average value of such representations, is important for motivating participation in elections. This is contrary to other studies that show that the more a person perceives corruption as widespread, the greater the likelihood that he or she will abstain from voting. In addition to their influence on the voting decision, the differentiated perception of corruption in political parties also affects the choice of votes as such, whether with regard to the probability of voting for a given party or the probability of voting for any one of several parties. With regard to the relationship between the mass perception of corruption of individual parties and voting, our findings contribute to an understanding of the behaviour of voters. Considering that party abuses were a significant problem in electoral politics and played a role in reducing and increasing the status of existing and new parties and switching votes, our findings also imply issues related to the institutionalization of the party system. For a free and democratic society, enemy number one is corruption. Corruption struck all branches of government, linking them into a single state apparatus, interested only in the reproduction of their own well-being. The result of such an unlawful influence on the will of citizens is a distorted political representation of various social groups, which leads to people’s distrust of power and the procedure for its formation, and also entails the devaluation of the meaning of the law and the law as instruments of regulating the life of the country. Corruption cannot be successfully confronted only through measures taken by some law enforcement agencies. Corruption as a social phenomenon can be effectively dealt with under the condition of mobilizing the efforts of the whole society and the state as a whole. Therefore, combating corruption in the electoral process should be a priority for the coordinated work of not only the legislator and practitioners, but also society as a whole.
- Carlucci, A. and Scotti, S. (1992). Mani pulite. [Milano]: A. Mondadori.
- Cragg, W., Larmour, P. and Wolanin, N. (2002). Corruption and Anti-Corruption. International Journal, 58(1), p.223.
- Kostadinova, T. (2012). Political corruption in Eastern Europe. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
- Navot, D. and Beeri, I. (2017). Conceptualization of Political Corruption, Perceptions of Corruption, and Political Participation in Democracies. Lex localis – Journal of Local Self-Government, 15(2), pp.199-219.
- Schmidt, D. (2007). Anti-Corruption: What Do We Know? Research on Preventing Corruption in the Post-Communist World. Political Studies Review, 5(2), pp.202-232.
- THE END OF THE CRAXI ERA? THE ITALIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS OF JUNE 1987. (1988). Parliamentary Affairs.
- XEZONAKIS, G., KOSMIDIS, S. and DAHLBERG, S. (2015). Can electors combat corruption? Institutional arrangements and citizen behaviour. European Journal of Political Research, 55(1), pp.160-176.