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What is Political Corruption?

Meaning of Political Corruption

Political corruption is an umbrella term that refers to instances in which appointed or elected government officials, from judges to legislators to police officers, fail to follow the law in a fair and balanced manner.

This may include activities such as supporting legislation through bribery, providing favorable or unfavorable judicial and legal treatment to selected minorities of the population, or other abuses of power.

The history of humanity in governments of all kinds has shown corruption to some extent. However, the practice is often more widespread in political systems that lack the innate checks and balances to limit power at the local and national levels, such as in dictatorships and totalitarian regimes.

Giving favors in exchange for bribes is a common type of political corruption.

The most unstable countries are generally those with poor government administration and control over the population, due to economic, military, or ethnic turmoil.

This often leads to widespread political corruption in government officials who obtained their authority and positions through questionable means in the first place and who may not be representative of the will of the people.

Nations that topped the list of a failed state index in 2011 included Somalia, Zimbabwe and Sudan. Each nation has unique circumstances that lead to political corruption: Somalia has a very weak central government, Zimbabwe faces huge economic challenges, and Sudan struggles with ethnic strife.

National intelligence services such as the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) regularly examine corruption by country and attempt to fairly rank nations using universal human rights principles.

These include the political freedoms and protections that governments offer their citizens. The lists are based on basic political rights and civil liberties that, once well established, minimize political corruption, such as police corruption and unjust rule by a power elite.

Myanmar, China and Laos were included in the CIA’s 2011 list of the most oppressive nations.

The CIA’s ranking of nations by level of freedom as of 2011 is based on the political rights of a fair electoral process, political pluralism and population participation, and a stable and functional government.

It also includes classifications that use civil liberties, such as freedom of expression and belief, the rule of law, and the protection of individual rights.

The nations that ranked as the most oppressive on the list as of 2011 included Burma, Libya and North Korea. Others considered high on the list of unjust political systems that often lead to systemic corruption were China, Cuba, and Laos.

Using unrealistic imagery in their propaganda is a tactic often used by corrupt political systems like the totalitarian regime in North Korea.

Corruption in local government is often an example of where a national government is weak or has abdicated responsibility for its citizens, except in the capital and major cities.

This type of political corruption dates back to empires and monarchies of the distant past, where a ruling political class used its power and wealth to exploit a disadvantaged local population.

Similar circumstances still exist today in many developing nations, where the wealth of a nation’s natural resources is largely channeled to the ruling class, and the bulk of the population is neglected and ignored.

The CIA World Fact Book In 2007, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was listed as an example of a nation where rampant corruption in the banking system and poor infrastructure contribute to making it the world’s sixth most dangerous country to live in.

Political corruption can lead to protests and demonstrations.

Political scandal, however, is not just a matter for poor nations or those ruled by oppressive regimes. Many advanced democracies, at one time or another, have had a political machine rampant with corruption.

Great statesmen such as Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom recognized that political corruption is a human condition that arises in all forms of government and that one of the best ways to minimize it was to encourage the participation of all citizens in the process of government.

Political corruption in its most basic form is an act by a public official in defiance of broad public interests, to give special consideration to the needs of associates and like-minded individuals. In this sense,

It is considered corrupt for a legislator to accept bribes in exchange for votes.

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