Aam Aadmi Party Victory in Delhi: the comeback of Indian anti-corruption politics?

By Lucía Ixtacuy

The Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) first gained international attention when it managed to achieve the second-largest majority in the Delhi Assembly after the 2013 elections. Grabbing 28 out of the 70 seats was considered an unprecedented and even “historic” political debut in India.

However, only 49 days after being sworn in as chief minister, the party leader, Arvind Kejriwal, resigned. Claiming that opposition parties in the national parliament were stalling an important bill (Jan Lokpal Bill (drafted by prominent civil society activists including Kejriwal himself) which would, among other things, appoint an independent body to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.

Kejriwal’s decision to step down was severely criticized by both analysts and AAP supporters alike. Perhaps partially as a consequence of his departure, the Party did not win any seats during the parliamentary elections of 2014. Such defeat brought deep concerns about the longevity of the AAP as a political organization.

Last week however, the AAP got 67 out of the 70 seats in the Delhi State Assembly elections. Not only are the results historic; the election also registered a record polling, with 67.08% turnout.

delhi_election_results
Source: Elections Data NDTV

Such a striking result makes it particularly interesting to have a closer look at the AAP, especially with regard to two facts. First, that the party blossomed as a result of the consolidation of the citizen anti-corruption movement, strong enough to influence the design and scope of a draft anti-corruption bill through a nationwide mobilization in 2011. Second, that once a part of the movement decided to constitute a political party, it was formed around anti-corruption as the main agenda.

The emergence and success of an anti-corruption movement, the impressive levels of voter turnout and the regained support for the APP, say much about Indian people being fed up with high levels of corruption.

Corruption in India

High-levels of corruption affect every citizen in India, from bribes that must be paid in order to access public services (i.e., identity cards, passports, and building permits) to an undermined rule of law and cases of fraudulent election processes. Corruption is present even in rural areas, as villagers are forced to pay bribes for accessing social programs. According to the Center for Media Studies, there is not much difference in the extent of corruption that households below the poverty line experience in urban and rural areas.

India has had broad anti-corruption legislation in place since colonial times, but corruption still prevails (i.e. Prevention of Corruption Act (1947), the Benami Transactions Prevention Act (1988), and Prevention of Money Laundering Act (2002). In addition, a set of anti-corruption institutions have been in operation since the early ninety-sixties (i.e. the Anticorruption Bureau (1961), the Central Bureau of Investigation (1963), the Central Vigilance Commission (1964) and the Directorate of Enforcement and the Financial Intelligence Unit (2004).

Unfortunately, legislation and institutions cannot control corruption per se. Engaged citizens demanding (and using) such instruments are also needed in order to have some results. Fortunately in India, parallel to the creation of an institutional and legal framework, social movements explicitly demanding transparency appeared already around 1975, leading to the declaration of the right to information as a fundamental constitutional right (1982), the adoption of the Right to Information Act (2005) and its operationalization (2010).

Supply and demand sides of accountability

The combination of supply and demand sides of accountability may be behind the success story of the India against Corruption Movement and the subsequent, electoral victories of the AAP; where the supply side consists of the mechanisms needed to hold government officials to account, and the demand side entails a dynamic civil society that is socially and politically active (World Bank 2009; Malena & McNeil 2010).

Last year, I was part of a team of master’s degree candidates that explored the role of both sides of accountability on control of corruption. As a case study, we analyzed the specific context in which the India Against Corruption Movement emerged, and the elements contributing its intensification and the subsequent formation of the AAP.

Changing the incentive structure of corruption

One of the main observations to emerge from our fieldwork, and which is relevant given the recent victory of the AAP, is that the anti-corruption movement and the Party rhetoric might have brought about changes in the incentive structure of corruption. This given that the logic behind corrupt behaviors follows a cost-benefit analysis, and individuals assess their opportunities, their cost, and the risks of getting caught.

First of all, the AAP has been highly successful in making corruption one of the most salient political issues. This has shifted the incentives for corrupt behaviors, since being corrupt has become increasingly more costly in electoral terms. An anti-corruption stance has become the prerogative in Indian politics. No politician can expect to get strong support from their electorate base if they do not address the issue of corruption. Hence, a society that is actively condemning the existence of corruption is also willing to give harsher punishments.

In addition, citizens were actively engaging in the collection of evidence for corrupt behavior. Arvind Kejriwal has asked followers and supporters of the movement on repeated occasions to be alert and record any situation they might find compromising. Social media has been the main platform to share these experiences and evidence. Organizations supporting the movement, such as, I Paid a Bribe, encourage citizens to share their experiences with corruption through Twitter and to accuse public servants involved in such acts. Consequently, there are new pressures on bureaucratic officials, who now have to think twice before they engage in corrupt acts. The risk of being caught has exponentially increased, and so have the costs.

Finally, the introduction of the Right to Information Act (RTI) has forced public officials into carrying out more transparent procedures of implementation of policies. Given that anybody can ask for information on the process at any time, RTI has changed the structure of incentives in terms of how public information is dealt with.

Whether the AAP is to last is yet to be seen. However, many of the individuals we interviewed for our field work agreed that even if the anti-corruption movement or the AAP are short-lived, they will remain relevant as long as they bring about certain changes, ideals or better yet, the development of a new governance structure.

As a final remark, it is interesting to note that, in terms of control of corruption, India’s rank in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) moved up to 85 (score: 3.8) in 2014 compared to that of 95 (score: 3.1) in 2011- when the anti-corruption movement emerged. Transparency International India 2014 CPI Report notes that such score possibly captured the anti-corruption mandate on which the government was elected and reflects the possibility of some new reforms in this area, including the passing of pending anti-corruption bills.

Lucia Ixtacuy recently graduated from the MPP programme at the Hertie School of Governance. She, Julián Prieto and Mónica Wills authored the ERCAS working paper: Anti-Corruption Revolutions: When Civil Society Steps In based on their master’s thesis. A summary of their research and findings is available here.

References:

McNeil, M., & Malena, C. (2010). : Demanding Good Governance: Lessons from Social Accountability Initiatives in Africa. . Washington DC: World Bank Publications, Ch 1.

Anti-Corruption Revolutions: When Civil Society Steps In.

by Lucía Ixtacuy, Julián Prieto, Mónica Wills

Over the last decade, the world has witnessed several citizen uprisings with protestors coming from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds who increasingly raise their voices in a discourse that pleads for a responsive and accountable government that will act in lawful and transparent ways. As never before, common citizens from countries such as the Philippines, India, Bulgaria, Brazil and Egypt, among others, acknowledge corruption as damaging for their societies, and loudly demand an effective solution. This swell of citizen activism was the underlying motivation behind our research on so-called Anti-Corruption Revolutions – mass manifestations that reveal generalized discontent with the performance of government.

IAC-Protesters-in-Pune
Photo credit: Nizardp

Through a mixed methodology that combines quantitative and qualitative research tools, we explore the question of whether an empowered civil society with access to public information, can make a difference in the fight against corruption. We prove that the availability of channels of accessing information has a positive effect on control of corruption, provided that civil society is engaged and able to actively participate in matters of public concern.

In the first stage of our research, we tested the existence of the joint effect of access to information and measurements of the strength of civil society on corruption through a cross-sectional econometric model in a sample of 125 countries. Besides finding supporting evidence for this main hypothesis, the results also showed that an increase in the perception of corruption over a period of time can have the effect of reducing levels of corruption in the following periods. In other words, we were able to show that perception not only follows a different dynamic than actual corruption indicators, but also that increases in corruption perception levels are not necessarily a sign of poor governance. A positive change in corruption perception can surge as a response to information becoming available, which in turn incentivizes civil society to consequently exert and demand control, leading to higher levels of control of corruption thereafter.

Why India?

In the second stage of our research, an interpretative framework was built through a case study, in order to explore connections within our quantitative results.

In the context of anti-corruption revolutions, India is particularly interesting given that relevant legislation, several civil society organizations, and a political party with anti-corruption as main agenda – the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), blossomed as a result of the consolidation of the citizen anti-corruption movement. The nationwide mobilization against corruption that took place in 2011 influenced for instance, the design and scope of the Jan Lokpal Bill (Ombudsman Bill) put in place in 2013. Mechanisms aimed at reducing information asymmetries, such as the Right to Information Act in 2005, have also been in place in the country for almost a decade and Anna Hazare, the main leader of the anti-corruption movement, is considered by many to be a modern-day Gandhi.

The in-country research followed a design similar to process tracing that aimed at exploring the effect of the interaction found in the quantitative analysis between reduction of information asymmetries and civil society empowerment on corruption[1]. We traveled to New Delhi to conduct fifteen semi-structured interviews in 10 days in with members of civil society organizations; independent journalist; members, volunteers and supporters of the AAP; and International Cooperation Agencies. Through our field work, we were able to identify the contextual factors that prompted the rise of the movement, the factors that determined its escalation, and the challenges and outputs of the movement, as outlined in the main research document.

Since anti-corruption reform was a central issue on the Indian political agenda during the time when we were conducting our research, we were able to find a strong support network of stakeholders that were both willing and interested in taking part in our research. The anti-corruption movement had also been given significant visibility in both social and traditional media making it, therefore, a well-known crosscutting subject to all the interviewed actors. The timely proximity of the fieldwork to the national elections that took place last March also meant that there was a clear window of opportunity for exploring the topic, and especially for understanding the particularities that made the Indian case stand out. Nonetheless, the time and budget constrains we faced prevented us from being able to travel to rural areas around the city of Pune in India where we could have had the opportunity to meet with and interview Anna Hazare, as was we originally intended. In addition, the proximity of the fieldwork to the national elections, made it difficult for us to contact many AAP candidates who were campaigning at the time. On a positive note, the anticipation of how the AAP would perform in the national elections certainly created a buzz around the Indian electoral and anti-corruption politics.

Main findings

There are two main findings of the research. On the one hand, the effect of empowering civil society in the fight against corruption depends on the existence of information accessing channels – without information there is not much a strong civil society can do to fight corruption, and without a demanding and empowered civil society, information about corruption will not translate into change. In India, for instance, the Right to Information Act was an instrumental mechanism in corruption awareness-raising that was simultaneously a consequence and a cause of the empowerment of civil society.

On the other hand, the case study of the anti-corruption movement in India showed that for accountability and transparency to be truly effective in fighting corruption, they should be accompanied by a collectively organized civil society that demands actions against corruption and that is able to consolidate a movement with a unified discourse. Factors such as the leadership, narrative and targeted audiences were certainly identified as crucial in the consolidation and escalation of the India Against Corruption Movement.

Brief update on the case study

We finished our research in April 2014. What has happened in India since then?

In terms of control of corruption, the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report published by Transparency International India in December 2014, states that India’s CPI score improved by increasing 2 points in 2014 from its 2013 score. Thus, India’s rank moved up to 85 in 2014 from 94 in 2013. The same report notes that such score possibly captured the anti-corruption mandate on which the new government was elected and reflects the possibility of some new reforms in this area, including the passing of all pending anti-corruption bills.

Regarding the AAP, the party did not win any seats during the parliamentary elections of 2014. Analysts consider that this was due to factors such as its inner antagonism and agitationist strategies, and the decrease of media and upper middle class support observed during the second semester of the current year. However, the party still exists and is active to the extent that the AAP is changing its electoral strategy in order to recover its voting base. Finally, another important update involves Mr. Arvin Kejriwal, the main AAP leader, whose engagement and achievements in the anti-corruption field has been widely recognized and who has been listed among the top 100 Global Thinkers (Foreign Policy Magazine 2013), the top 100 Most Influential People in the World (Time 2014), very recently too, he received the Asia’s Most Inspiring and Young Social Change Maker Award (World Brands Summit, December 6th, 2014).

Lucía Ixtacuy, Julián Prieto, Mónica Wills all graduated from the Hertie School of Governance MPP programme in 2014. A working paper version of their research has also been published by ERCAS: http://www.againstcorruption.eu/reports/anti-corruption-revolutions-civil-society-steps/

In the Spring of this year, they traveled to India to complete their field work for their master’s thesis, and a film was made about their project.

[1] Fieldwork was funded by the Hertie School of Governance in the framework of its 10th Anniversary Jubilee Program and was also supported by the DAAD. Lastly, the research benefited from the support of different international organizations, such as ERCAS, Transparency International and the German Agency for International Cooperation GIZ.

 

Anti-Corruption Revolutions: When Civil Society Steps In

This working paper explores the question of whether an empowered civil society with access to public information, can make a difference in the fight against corruption, using India and the recent rise of an anti-corruption party as a case study. Through a mixed methodology that combines quantitative and qualitative research tools, the authors find evidence that the availability of channels for accessing information has a positive effect on control of corruption, provided that civil society is engaged and able to actively participate in matters of public concern. In addition, this paper seeks to understand if and how collective action problems are overcome by civil society and determine whether the so-called anti-corruption revolutions are manifestations of this process.

The quantitative model builds upon previous work that has found separate effects for both factors (access to information and civil society) on control of corruption, and introduces an interaction term between the two of them. Additionally, the quantitative analysis explores the effects of perceived levels of corruption in a given period in subsequently controlling corruption.

The qualitative model, in turn, inquires more deeply into the interaction of these two variables using India as case study. Here, access to information legislation has been in place for almost a decade and civil society has shown itself outstandingly active. This case is particularly interesting given that the mobilization against corruption initiated in 2011 managed to achieve the introduction of a federal law creating an ombudsman. Altogether, this paper aims to shed light on the factors and processes shaping a sustained demand for accountability.

Anti-Corruption Revolutions: When Civil Society Steps In

This working paper explores the question of whether an empowered civil society with access to public information, can make a difference in the fight against corruption, using India and the recent rise of an anti-corruption party as a case study. Through a mixed methodology that combines quantitative and qualitative research tools, the authors find evidence that the availability of channels for accessing information has a positive effect on control of corruption, provided that civil society is engaged and able to actively participate in matters of public concern. In addition, this paper seeks to understand if and how collective action problems are overcome by civil society and determine whether the so-called anti-corruption revolutions are manifestations of this process.

The quantitative model builds upon previous work that has found separate effects for both factors (access to information and civil society) on control of corruption, and introduces an interaction term between the two of them. Additionally, the quantitative analysis explores the effects of perceived levels of corruption in a given period in subsequently controlling corruption.

The qualitative model, in turn, inquires more deeply into the interaction of these two variables using India as case study. Here, access to information legislation has been in place for almost a decade and civil society has shown itself outstandingly active. This case is particularly interesting given that the mobilization against corruption initiated in 2011 managed to achieve the introduction of a federal law creating an ombudsman. Altogether, this paper aims to shed light on the factors and processes shaping a sustained demand for accountability.

Anti-corruption as last chapter of democratic revolutions

by: Alina Mungiu-Pippidi

Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi was a 27 years old Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, in protest at the confiscation of his wares following an accusation by officials that he was trading illegally. That started the fires of the Tunisian Revolution and then the wider Arab Spring, and he was instantly cast as a hero – after all, then-President Zine El Abidine Ben was a typical predatory leader with a wife who had built herself an unauthorized villa at the UNESCO heritage site of Carthage. But the hero of the Tunisian revolution was in fact avoiding paying tax, like most petty traders in poor countries all around the world. He saw himself as acting legitimately in doing so because the state had done so little for him and his family in his life, while President Ben Ali and his wife prospered. The state could have argued in return that since people like Mr Bouazizi had never paid taxes there were insufficient public resources to offer them much. It might turn out that the money spent on Mrs Ben Ali’s villa and other spoils was insufficient to provide for all those in need of education and health care but who were not paying taxes. In other words, beyond the paradigm of predator and victim, what seems to be the problem in the Tunisian situation is the absence of an agreed social contract between them to avoid both corruption and evasion. Only such a contract would give development a chance.

1280px-French_support_Bouazizi
Photo credit: Antoine Walter (Flickr)

Crowds in the streets of New Delhi, Sofia and Rio have only recently raised corruption as one of the main banners of their protests.  It is not difficult to see why. Most of the 114,000 respondents in 107 countries interviewed for the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer believe that corruption has increased, not decreased in the previous year, two out of three consider that favouritism is the rule rather than the exception in their public services (only a quarter having resorted to bribes in the year previous to survey), over 50% believe their government is captured by vested interests and for every nine people who consider national anti-corruption strategies ineffective we find one who believes they are working.

The reasons why people complain of corruption become obvious when we survey the countries where such perceptions are dominant. New research from the EU FP7 ANTICORRP project shows that corruption comes with a score of malign phenomena which hinder development and well-being. High perception of corruption is significantly associated with low public expenditure on health (the queues outside Brazilian hospitals), but high expenditure on various government projects – from Brazil’s expensive World Cup to Mr. Ben Ali’s grandiose empty mega-mosque – along with reduced absorption of assistance funds, low tax collection, poor returns from public investment and brain drain. In 2013 only citizens in Northern European countries agreed that for the most part advancement in the public or private sector is based on hard work and competence, while for the rest of Europeans favouritism through connections, the most insidious and widespread form of corruption, seems to be the ticket to success in their societies.

Why are elections not taking care of that and in new democracies we continue to have the same problem, which we can document with evidence ranging from the poor rate of tax collection to the fact that the number one source of wealth continues to be power and authority? Why does control of corruption work in most old democracies (though not in all) and in so few new ones (over eighty countries which hold regular free elections are systematically corrupt)? Because for a society to prevent those with power to allocate public resources to their benefit elections seem not to be sufficient- they alone cannot guarantee that whoever gets elected rules by the law and the state treats everyone equally and fairly. In many new democracies political parties are structured as “spoiling machines” of public resources, a historically more evolved organizing vehicle for group benefit after family, clan or tribe, who have learned to coexist fairly well with apparently modern organizations by informally draining them of their impersonal and objective character. The most widespread example is the politicization of the public service in corrupt countries (including hospitals and schools, where jobs are seen as party spoils).

Over 160 countries in the world ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption pledging to evolve to modernity. But seeing that corruption at a systemic scale is simply an abuse of power, anti-corruption is necessarily a political act.  The few countries which succeeded to build control of corruption over the last forty years – countries like Uruguay or Estonia – did not do it through anti-corruption agencies or other silver bullets promoted by the international community, but because a critical mass managed to balance power and elect people who ended the old vicious circle and initiated new rules of the game. For our generation the elimination of privilege and favouritism is the only way to accomplish in full the democratic revolutions started in 1989. Integrity is a public good, and this is why its construction is fraught with collective action problems and translates in this new wave of global discontent – it’s only discontent with the outcome of imperfect democracies and not with democracy itself.

The results of the ANTICORRP project cited here are published in Alina Mungiu-Pippidi (editor) Anticorruption Report 1 (Controlling Corruption in Europe) and Anticorruption Report 2 (The Anticorruption Frontline) which came out from Barbara Budrich publishers in 2013 and 2014.

Alina Mungiu-Pippidi chairs the European Centre for Anticorruption and State Building (ERCAS) at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

New Book: Corruption, Contention, and Reform: The Power of Deep Democratisation

In his new book, Colgate University professor and anti-corruption expert Michael Johnston argues that corruption will persist until those who have a stake in defeating it act in ways that cannot be ignored. For this to happen, citizens need to be enabled to defend their own interests, which is at the heart of the principle of “deep democratisation.” This volume is a continuation of his previous work, Syndromes of Corruption, where Johnston outlined four syndromes of corruption: influence markets, elite cartels, oligarchs and clans, and official moguls. As he argues, each syndrome requires a different reform approach.

For this new volume, Johnston analysed the following syndromes: official moguls in Egypt and Tunisia, oligarchs and clans in the Philippines, elite cartels in Argentina, and influence markets in France, Australia and the US. He focuses on recent events such as the global economic crisis and the Arab Spring to show that we can assess vulnerabilities to corruption and the effects of reforms, and use this information to develop new practices.

Professor Johnston recently took some time to answer our questions about the new publication:

1. How do you define corruption and how do you define control of corruption?

That’s the holy grail of corruption research because there’s no settled definition. The essence of it, it seems to me, is the abuse of wealth and power for personal or small group benefit. At one point, that would have been defined more strictly in the context of the lack of a private-public divide, but of course there’s corruption in societies which do have a strong private-public divide. It’s fundamentally a question of power and exploitation.

As far as successful control of corruption – we don’t really have good measures. Transparency International has done a wonderful service to anti-corruption research with the indicators that they have developed, but these indicators have also distorted the discussion somewhat. I like to look at indirect measures: public trust, political participation, etc; there are a number of micro measures. For example, how long does it take to get a passport, how easy is it to register a business? Ultimately, the issue is not so much the absence of corruption, but the progress toward accountability, and one problem that the anti-corruption movement has had, is that we’ve tended to focus on the negative, and neglect success stories.

2. This volume is a continuation of your previous work, Syndromes of Corruption. Was this second volume always planned or did it evolve organically?

That’s an interesting question, because in Syndromes of Corruption, I wrote a final chapter which looked at the concept of “deep democratisation,” by which I mean, “a continuing process of building workable rules and accountability by bringing more voices and interests into the governing process.” That ending chapter definitely made room for something later on – it was sort of like in Star Wars when Darth Vader gets away and you know that there’s got to be a sequel. I knew there was a need to further explore the concept of deep democratisation, but the actual development of the book took longer.

3.  What are your impressions of anti-corruption achievement since you wrote the first volume?

Well, I’d first like to preface that by saying that when we talk about anti-corruption activists, we’re talking about a lot of good, smart people. In some places in the world, we’re also talking about many courageous people who are taking risks. Having said that, there are unfortunately not many success stories. When we start talking about success stories, the conversation inevitably moves to places like Hong Kong, Singapore, but these are city-states. If you want to point to success stories in countries, it’s hard to find them.

If you look at the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), you find successes in places like Belgium and Japan, but they had good institutions to begin with. Ghana, Indonesia, Uruguay and South Korea are also promising. Returning to the question of measures again, one of the main problems with the CPI is that from year to year, countries tend not to move in the rankings, despite strenuous efforts.

4. You argue that corruption will continue unless those who have a stake in opposing it are able to do so in ways that cannot be ignored. Who do you identify as having a stake and could you give an example of resistance to corruption which could not be ignored?

Broadly speaking, those who have a stake in opposing it are those who lose from corruption. What I hope might come out of this book is discussion of more nuanced ways of fighting corruption, ways that enable citizens in different contexts to have input in shaping their own destiny.

If you look at several historical cases, reform is frequently motivated by some kind of self-interest and not necessarily out of a desire to serve the common good. Many reformers take it as a given that you check your self-interest at the door when you are fighting for a cause, but I don’t think that’s the case.

For example, there were a number of U.S. business interests that were closely affiliated with well-oiled political machines, such as Tammany Hall. Ultimately, however, many of these interests strayed from the machine because it had built such a political monopoly that it could no longer regard business as a partner but as a target for exploitation. These business entities pursued a number of other unsavoury agendas, but in this instance, because of their own self-interests, they pursued an anti-corruption agenda.

Even the Magna Carta arguably came about as a result of wealthy land-owners pursuing their own self-interests. There’s a certain romance to reform, but I think unfortunately that can be a trap. It’s not always a matter of civic enlightenment.

5. What would you say are promising cases? Ie, cases which have made a lot of progress? Are there any lessons to be learned from them?

To begin with, it depends on what we mean by progress. Countries which manage to fully control corruption, so that it’s an exception or countries which go from horrible to merely bad?

Having said that, I would keep an eye on Thailand – it’s still up in the air but after they introduced anti-corruption measures in the [1997] constitution things went better. I think Tunisia has potential. Mexico has struggled in many ways, but is an interesting laboratory for reform ideas. Chile is also an interesting case, but of course some progress was made under dictatorship.

6. What are some countries which you would identify as problematic which may not appear so based on indicators?

I would actually say that liberal democracies such as the US, France, Japan, Germany are problematic for reasons which are not evident from looking at indicators. We get good Transparency International [Corruption Perception Index] scores, and good World Bank [Worldwide Governance Indicators] scores, but at the same time, have we really controlled corruption or have we totally handed the reins to the wealthy to the extent that they don’t need to bribe anyone anymore?

I discuss this in Chapter 7 of the book. The kind of corruption in liberal democracies is particularly dangerous, because it has a way of spreading through the global system. If you’re talking about exploitation of Nigeria, it’s isolated. U.S. or French involvement in arms trading has a global impact. That sort of corruption often consists of desirable corruption, but sometimes it pushes the boundary (I would argue, for example, in the area of campaign contributions, it has). Lobbying is a right in the US, but has it crossed the line? International business is important, but has it reached the point where people aren’t accountable anywhere? Are wealthy interests taking over? This is why I would say any comparative corruption scheme must include the North and the West.

7. What are your thoughts on top-down versus bottom-up anti-corruption reforms?

I think we need both working in synergy. In the Philippines, one of the big issues is, how do you close the loop between citizens and government? People may not take their problems directly to government offices, but to fixers [third party operators who help complete bureaucratic processes for a fee]? Vote-buying is rampant, etc. The risk is that the country falls into what Richard Rose refers to as the “expectations trap”. Citizens don’t expect much of government, and vice versa. One of the recommendations in this situation is to start benchmarking government services.  NGOs exist, but are well outside the agencies they monitor. Many agencies are already gathering data which would work well in this process, but they might lack the capacity to analyse it properly.

China for example has a huge amount of data on this – and there’s wide variation in the benchmarks. How long does it take to register a business? If it varies widely – or if delays are longer, there’s perhaps more risk of corruption.

8. What are your thoughts on measures of corruption?

I think what’s currently missing is a way to assess integrity, assess citizen satisfaction. Efficiency does NOT equal integrity. A great example of this, which I discuss in the book, is a project from two of my students which evolved into an organisation called Shudify. They conducted exit surveys for people leaving government offices in Bangalore, and in this way they were able to map out where in the city people could expect good service.

9. Any other thoughts to add?

Well, on the topic of the book, I hope people will read and be critical. On the four syndromes, hopefully someday there will be more and maybe only 2 of them will be ones I thought of, and that’s ok. I hope people would view corruption in a myriad of contexts, rather than just a black or white issue.

Michael Johnston is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science at Colgate University and serves on the advisory board of ERCAS and of the ANTICORRP project. His latest book, Corruption, Contention, and Reform: The Power of Deep Democratization was recently published by Cambridge University Press. 

New Grassroots Anti-corruption Revolutions Discussed at NED

National Endowment for Democracy hosted Alina Mungiu-Pippidi for a talk in Washington, DC where she argued that the demand for good governance erupting in grassroots movements in Egypt, India, Ukraine, Turkey and Brazil should be seen as a second phase of transition to democracy as global constituencies are no longer satisfied with elections alone and demand more equality of treatment from governments everywhere.

Mungiu-Pippidi shared data from the research project ANTICORRP showing that favoritism of governments in relation to citizens is the number one cause of high perceptions of corruption and criticized the global corruption movement for neglecting this phenomenon. She also expressed skepticism towards top down anti-corruption reforms, arguing that in countries where corruption is widespread the spoliation of public resources could be described as a pyramid, with people on top spoiling the most. She furthermore encouraged those who care about promoting democracy to invest in structuring this growing demand for new government.

Mungiu-Pippidi concluded her presentation by describing three situations in which such countries may find themselves, and corresponding policy approaches:

  • The first situation requires the presence of a strong and autonomous civil society. In this situation, those who lose from corruption are strong and organized enough to take action. They are the main drivers of change, and as an approach, anti-corruption strategies should be aimed at helping them achieve their goals.
  • The second situation is where those who lose from corruption are not strong and organized enough to take action. Instead of directly pursuing anti-corruption strategies, the recommended approach is to develop civil society capacity to be autonomous in the future.
  • The third situation is one in which there are no significant domestic losers meaning that no corresponding anti-corruption strategy is needed except in terms of aid distribution.

The new data is from an upcoming ANTICORRP report, an extensive quantitative analysis of causes of achievement and stagnation in the global fight against corruption. The report also argues that particularly in countries where corruption is the norm, top-down reforms are ineffective.