"Kill Them with Kindness: How Party Strategies Influence Voters' Tolerance of Political Corruption in Developing Democracies"

Thursday, July 13, 2017
JWS - Room J15 (J375) (University of Glasgow)
Albana Shehaj , Political Science, University of Michigan
Why do voters fail to punish corruption and what strategies do parties utilize to ensure electoral viability and inoculate themselves from voters' wrath? Despite its repercussions on economic and democratic developments, corruption continues to disrupt the political patterns of Europe’s transitioning democracies. While distinct in frequency and magnitude, patterns of electoral tolerance of corruption persist across the region even as voters are both informed of its existence and able to punish it via mechanisms of electoral accountability.  This project explores this puzzle by introducing a theoretical model that shifts away from the dyadic nature of clientelist exchanges and traditional patron-client relations focused on tangible benefits as currency for short-term electoral support. By considering both macro and micro factors that influence voters’ electoral support of corrupt actors and parties, I posit that despite their tendency to engage in practices that are discordant with democratic norms of accountability, voters are unwilling to punish corrupt politicians affiliated with parties that provide long-term policy and institutional benefits. I test these conjectures on a subset of transitioning democracies of Eastern European and the Balkan regions during the period of 1990–2013. I employ a methodological approach that combines a multivariate empirical analysis with qualitative evidence from two case studies and find preliminary support for the proffered hypotheses.