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Do Politics in Europe Benefit from Politicising Corruption?

Journal article
Authors Andreas Bågenholm
Nicholas Charron
Published in West European Politics
Volume 37
Issue 5
Pages 903-931
ISSN 0140-2382
Publication year 2014
Published at Quality of Government Institute (QoG)
Department of Political Science
Pages 903-931
Language en
Keywords Politicization, corruption, political parties, electoral campaigns, European politics
Subject categories Political Science


In this article, two unexplored trends in European electoral politics are highlighted. Using newly collected data the article tracks the politicisation of corruption in electoral campaigns from 1981 to 2011, an electoral strategy that has been increasing over time in most European countries. It then empirically tests two aspects of this campaign strategy. First, what are the factors that are systematically associated with a party’s decision to politicise corruption? Second, what are the electoral effects in terms of relative vote share for parties that politicise corruption? Using an original data-set that employs multi-level data (parties nested in countries) the results demonstrate first that politicisation of corruption occurs systematically more often among established parties from the main opposition, new parties and parties on the political right, and occurs as a function of country-level corruption, district magnitude and public party financing. Second, it is found that the main opposition and new parties that use such a campaign strategy make significant electoral gains relative to the previous election compared to parties that do not politicise corruption. Yet gains are offset in low-corruption countries. The findings demonstrate salient implications for research on party systems, corruption studies and democratic legitimacy, among other areas of investigation.

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