Sahr Kpundeh and Phyllis Dininio
As chapters 5–11 will show, legislators can play a powerful role in curbing corruption. Through their legislative, financial, oversight, and representative roles, legislators can help to strengthen systems of accountability, reduce opportunities for corruption, improve incentives for official probity, and channel popular demand for integrity Their efforts can complement anti-corruption efforts that may be under way in other branches of government or in civil society and can serve as a check on corruption in the executive branch. Their ability to check executive abuse may be strongest in parliamentary systems and in regimes where the executive’s party does not control all chambers of the legislature.
These abilities, however, do not necessarily translate into action. The political will of legislators to fight corruption may be weak, dormant, or nonexistent. Some legislators may not perceive fighting corruption to be in their best interest. Indeed, political will is the reflection of complex circumstances that incorporate the aspirations of individual leaders, a calculation of the benefits and costs that would result from changes in rules and behaviors, and belief in the ability to muster adequate support to overcome resistance to reforms. Political will neither originates nor becomes manifest in a vacuum.
While the desire to fight corruption can reside in many locations,1 this chapter focuses on political will located in the legislative branch. For clarity, we define the concept of political will as the demonstrated credible intent of political actors (elected or appointed leaders, civil society watchdogs, stakeholder groups, and so forth) to attack perceived causes or effects of corruption at a systemic level. The focus is on the motives and actions of political actors in support of anti-corruption reforms.
Identifying political will to fight corruption is not always straightforward. Anticorruption rhetoric can represent a desire to defuse opposition, bolster support, or
1 Examples abound of reform efforts that have arisen from each branch of government, the political opposition, civil society, international organizations, and private sector institutions.