During a summer school on the theme of parties and democracy held at the European University Institute in Florence last September, the talk turned to political corruption, as it often does when politics students visit Italy. The Telegraph's principal revelations in the MPs' expenses scandal had appeared some while before, but the summer school students were in any case more intrigued by the doings of Silvio Berlusconi and the daily stories of political chicanery in La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera. They also had revealing stories of their own. In Bulgaria, we were told, one vote in seven had been bought by a political party before a recent election. Bulgaria is 71st in Transparency International's most recent 'corruption perceptions index', sharing with Romania and Greece the lowest ranking in the European Union. The highest price paid for an individual vote was said to be about EUR15, and the proof that the voter had fulfilled his part of the bargain was a photo of the completed ballot paper taken with a mobile phone. (A number of countries now ban voters from taking mobile phones into the polling booth.) In Turkey, which is number 61 in the index, and is thus seen as being less corrupt than Bulgaria, Romania or Greece, bribery and corruption, we were told, are to be found everywhere in the government and the military. In Greece, in the lead-up to the 2007 election, the ruling party offered EUR3000 compensation to anyone who had suffered as a result of that summer's fires. No evidence was required. The opposition alleged that public money was being used to buy votes.
LRB 25 February 2010 | PDF Download