Many developing democracies suffer from persistent corruption and rule-of-law violations. Growing efforts have focused on establishing anticorruption institutions to combat this culture of impunity, but success has been modest. We tackle this puzzle by focusing on the calculus of the threatened corrupt elites in undermining serious anticorruption efforts. We examine electoral manipulation, as credible anticorruption reforms may increase pressure on corrupt elites to fraudulently maintain power in order to control anticorruption efforts. At the same time, anticorruption reforms can deter electoral manipulation if they sufficiently raise the costs of lawbreaking. Focusing on the representative case of Romania and using a variety of data sources, diagnostics and research designs, we show how credible anticorruption efforts systematically induce electoral manipulation by the backlash coalition of corrupt politicians. However, this manipulation is constrained by electoral competition, which may be the key to longer-term political consolidation of these “imperfect” democracies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science