Competitive Corruption: Factional Conflict and Political Malfeasance in Postwar Italian Christian Democracy

Keywords: Corruption – Electoral system – Intraparty conflict – Campaign funds

This paper studies the relationship between cartels of politicians and systemic political corruption in a democratic setting. Some electoral systems, including open list systems of proportional representation, provide incentives for intraparty competition for office, as candidates in the same party compete for positions on the list, thereby competing for public office. The paper analyzes the relationship between intraparty conflict in postwar Italy's dominant political party, Christian Democracy, and charges of malfeasance against Christian Democratic members of the Chamber of Deputies in the years between the first postwar parliamentary elections in 1948 and the end of the XI Legislature in 1994, when the electoral system was substantially modified. Results show a significant statistical relationship between intraparty conflict and alleged corruption on the part of DC deputies starting in the early 1970s. These results are interpreted to mean that the dramatic levels of political corruption observed in Italy in recent decades were in part an outgrowth of the search for campaign funds by incumbent DC members of parliament in their competition with other candidates from the same party. Electoral competition with other parties did not significantly affect the extent of charges of malfeasance against DC Deputies.

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