Monday, May 12, 2008

Bribery, Finance and the Electoral System

The recent suspicions regarding Ehud Olmert raise an issue that has been bugging me for a while regarding the political system. I don't want to discuss Olmert's integrity. The courts can decide upon that. But it would appear to me that democratic electoral systems in an age of hyper-marketing and enormous media coverage are exceptionally problematic. Let me explain.

1. A politician or candidate must not take bribes. In other words, he cannot sell his decisions for money or have his judgment guided/clouded by money donations.

2. It is exceptionally expensive to run a campaign and to fund all the staff and commercials and the entire election machine. The average candidate does not have that money.

3. Politicians fund election campaigns from donations … from wealthy donors.

4. "There is no such thing as a free lunch" – in other words, not every donor is altruistic. They do expect a payback, a favour at times.

5. To be elected, candidates need to hobnob with the rich an famous, with market leaders and top business people, all of whom have multi million dollar interests

So to my point… we now see our 4th PM in Israel suspected of election fraud. Is it possible to get elected today without private money? And if private money doesn't come "for free", then where is the line between bribery and political support? The line is certainly fine indeed. I don't like it that leaders hang out with the rich and famous, but do they have a choice? I used to read how the Clinton's hosted celebs and business people all the time at the White House. Is that bribery or networking?

So does our modern electoral system support soft bribery? I suspect it does.

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