Impact Of Political Corruption On The Voter Turnout In Italy And Chile
Political corruption is commonplace in Italian and Chilean history. The effects can be traced from the period of 1990-2010 and to this day some citizens do not trust their government. It is easy for a government official to abuse their power to satisfy their personal interests by committing crimes like extortion, corruption, criminal conspiracy, etc. To understand the long term effects it is necessary to look at nations where their government is not trusted. There is a relation entrenched between government corruption and voter turnout through the work of many Italian and Chilean academics. Through the studies of Italian professors and Chilean public officials, a relationship can be identified where countries with higher corruption rates had a lower voter turnout. These ideas can be supported through the Ideas International Database for voter turnout (Ideas International Database).
In 1992 Judge Antonio Di Pietro had Mario Chiesa, a member of the Italian Socialist Party arrested for accepting a bribe from Luca Magni owner of a cleaning firm in Milan. Economist Marco Deaglio appraised the costs of the Tangenttopoli (Bribesville) system between 75 billion to 129 billion euros of public debt (Sargiacomo, Ianni, D’Andreamatteo, & Servalli, 2015). Of the 4520 total cases, 2375 (53%) cases were sentenced before a judge. About 40% of the investigated people were able to bail themselves out by invoking the parliamentary privilege, arguing legal procedures, or by having the judiciary selectively change the rules (Sargiacomo, Ianni, D’Andreamatteo, & Servalli, 2015).
As evidence of the system’s endemic corruption, Bettino Craxi the leader of the Italian Socialist Party delivered a speech in the Italian Parliament in July 1992 addressing the spread of corruption in public institutions which results in the deterioration of public life. In political parties, Craxi says it is difficult to pinpoint the areas affected by corruption because of the presence and prevalence of devilish logics (Sargiacomo, Ianni, D’Andreamatteo, & Servalli, 2015). Political figures from the Socialist, Christian Democrats and Communist parties, entrepreneurs, and civil servants were arrested and investigated. They were accused of extortion, corruption, criminal conspiracy, association with organized crime and the receipt of stolen goods (Sargiacomo, Ianni, D’Andreamatteo, & Servalli, 2015). Most notably Bettino Craxi was accused of corruption and illicit financing resigned as leader of the party and was later sentenced to 27 years in prison (Nelken, 1996). The number of trials per corruption crime had already increased steadily from 1989 a few years before the Mani Pulite movement (Monte & Papagni, 2006).
The reaction from the public resulted in the downfall of the two main parties the Christian Democrats and Socialists. There were also economic reasons for the campaign against corruption. The cost of corrupt practices had become increasingly high and was one of the main contributors to the very large budget deficit (Monte & Papagni, 2006). As a result, ordinary citizens supported criminal proceedings of political corruption. The effects of the anti-corruption campaign on widespread bribery were not immediate but they were gradually effective. An overdue response occurred in 1989 when changes to the penal code increased the power of judges to investigate corruption (Sargiacomo, Ianni, D’Andreamatteo, & Servalli, 2015). In this new code judges were no longer simply mediators but rather detectives taking point on the inquiry. Judges could obtain access to national bank account information (Sargiacomo, Ianni, D’Andreamatteo, & Servalli, 2015). In 1993 Law 81 changed the system to make the Mayor, the President of the provincial Authority and the President of the Regional Authority electoral offices (Monte & Papagni, 2006).
The new system made the Mayor and other Presidents more autonomous of political parties and therefore able to resist the pressure of lobbies. As the scandal unfolded it became progressively obvious that politicians and other public officials were customary to using their power to promote their own self-interests at public expense. The scandal highlighted in the media by newspapers, severely affected the Italian political arena to the point that important changes were made to increase political accountability of national and regional representatives (Fiorino, Galli, & Goel, 2018). Publicizing of corruption increases voter turnout because citizens elect new officials to change their current government and they protest against the current administrations. In the 1992 general election, the voter turnout was 87.44% with 41.7 million votes out of 47.4 million registered voters (Ideas International Database). This was the last year Italy had compulsory voting. After the 1992 voter turnout took a slight decline from 87.44 in 1992 to 80.54% in 2008 (Ideas International Database). Voter registration remained relatively similar to 47.4 million in 1992 to 47.1 million in 2008 (Ideas International Database). SInce registered voters were not required to vote anymore but those who vote are trying to elect leaders that will represent them and their ideas, and the leaders support their constituents’ interests.
From 2006-2007 Chile had a series of four political scandals that affected the Concertación coalition. In October 2006 it was discovered that 90% of the projects of Chiledeportes, the governments’ sports organization, were found to have either initiatives that were never started or false and nonexistent identities (Olavarria-Gambi, 2015). The investigation into this conundrum resulted in the arrest of Juan Michel a prominent member of the Christian Democrat Party. Throughout the investigation it was discovered that much of the money that went to Chiledeportes’ Valparaiso Region branch was used to finance the political campaigns of Concertacíon members, mainly those of Party for Democracy deputies Laura Soto and Rodrigo Gonzalez (Olavarria-Gambi, 2015). 20 people were arrested because of this misuse of government funds (Olavarria-Gambi, 2015).
Access to public information was included in the presidential platform of the then-candidate Michelle Bachelet although corruption cases in previous administrations of the coalition that backed Bachelet had been discussed during the presidential campaign, other corruption scandals erupted at the beginning of her administration, the decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the case of Marcel Claude Reyes ruled that Chile violated the rights to freedom of expression, due process, and judicial protection (Global Freedom of Expression, 2014). From 1993-2009 there was compulsory voting. In the 1993 general election, voter turnout was 90.96% with 7.3 million votes out of 8.1 million registered voters (Ideas International Database). In 2009, voter turnout was 87.67% with 7.2 million votes out of 8.2 million registered voters (Ideas International Database). Compulsory voting ended in the 2013 election and voter turnout dropped to 49.35% with 6.6 million votes out of 13.5 million registered voters (Ideas International Database). There were more citizens that registered but did not have to vote or face a penalty from abstaining from voting.
According to the Freedom House, Italy and Chile as of 2019 have a 75% rating for if citizens believe there are safeguards against official corruption (Freedom House, 2019). In Italy corruption remains a serious problem despite permanent attempts to fight against it, and connections between organized crime and public officials continue. Several local and regional officeholders have been sentenced to prison in recent years (Freedom House, 2019). Although anti-corruption laws are enforced in Chile preceding corruption scandals tarnished former President Bachelet’s favorability during her presidency.
Italy and Chile as of 2019 also have a 75% rating for if citizens believe their government operates with transparency (Freedom House, 2019). The Italian government routinely complies with public requests for information, but postponed responses have been reported. Although in 2009 the Transparency and Access to Public Information Law (Freedom House, 2019) were placed into effect which increased public access to information and created a Council on Transparency the scandals from 2006-2007 leave the citizens with distrust in their government.
In conclusion, after analyzing political corruption and voter turnout in Italy and Chile the research might suggest that there is a correlation between political corruption and low voter turnout but a strong connection cannot be well-established with only two countries. However, other studies have looked in-depth into different countries and concluded that political corruption and low voter turnout are strongly connected. Academics acknowledge the importance of government transparency to the general population while keeping matters of national security confidential. They credit this factor to the ending of compulsory voting in countries with transparent governments. There is significantly more progress that should be possible with this research particularly with the effect that these scandals history has on the populaces today.
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