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Corruption and the political system: some evidence from Italian regions

Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between the political system and corruption from a novel perspective. The main idea is that the electoral system and competition among political parties have an impact on grand corruption, but not on petty corruption. Using Italian regional data on regional elections and corruption, the paper shows how an increase in the disproportionality outcome of an election, or an increase in the level of competition between parties, reduces grand corruption, while it has no effect on petty corruption. Yet the combined effects of the extent of proportionality in the electoral outcome and political competition may yield different final effects on grand corruption. The paper suggests major policy implications to fight corruption by fostering less distorting political systems.

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Fig. 1

Source: authors’ calculations based on ISTAT data related to corruption crimes reported per 100,000 inhabitants (Annals of Judicial Statistics). All values are normalized between 0 and 1

Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Source: authors’ calculations based on ISTAT data related to corruption crimes reported per 100,000 inhabitants (Annals of Judicial Statistics) and IPDUR – variables rescaled between 0 and 1

Fig. 5

Source: authors’ calculations based on ISTAT data related to corruption crimes reported per 100,000 inhabitants (Annals of Judicial Statistics) and Transparency International data—CPI rescaled between 0 (absence of corruption) and 1 (highest level of corruption)

Notes

  1. https://www.transparency.org/what-is-corruption.

  2. We employ data on charges rather than on convictions for two main reasons. First, convictions for corruption are often pronounced many years after the crime occurred. This indeterminacy makes it difficult to determine a good lag structure of the variables, whereas charges of corrupting usually arise one year after the occurrence of the related crimes. Second, data on convictions are even more under-reported than those on corruption charges, given that in Italy many crimes are often time-barred or there is no conviction for procedural errors. This is in line with the literature showing that conviction rates are a feeble tool to curb corruption (Capasso et al. 2019).

  3. One could argue that the new anti-corruption measures adopted in Italy under Law no. 190/2012 could affect our estimates, at least starting from 2013 when the law came into force. Yet we do not believe this is the case for different reasons. First, Article 318 was renamed “corruption to perform the duties”, but the legal bases of the crime have not been changed. Moreover, the penalties required by the reformed Articles 318 and 319 have been increased, but at the same rate of proportionality. Finally, the new anti-corruption law does not change the legal provisions of the crime or the underlying sentence which the Law requires under Article 320.

  4. The main criminal organizations recognized as “Mafia” in Italy are: Camorra, 'Ndrangheta, Sacra Corona Unita and Cosa Nostra.

  5. For the five Special Constitution Regions of Italy (Valle d’Aosta, Trentino Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Sardinia and Sicily), data are extracted from the institutional website of each Regional Council.

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Correspondence to Vincenzo Alfano.

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Appendix

Appendix

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Table 4 General corruption (alternative measure) and political systems

4

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Alfano, V., Capasso, S. & Santoro, L. Corruption and the political system: some evidence from Italian regions. Ital Econ J (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40797-022-00198-z

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Keywords

  • Grand corruption
  • Petty corruption
  • Political competition
  • Electoral formula

JEL Classification

  • C23
  • D72
  • D73
  • H57
  • K16