According to a recent conference report, corruption “exists and has always existed/’ “it is pervasive, and it has far reaching consequences,” it “represents one of the most significant obstacles to development,” and “it also distorts the proper functioning of democratic institutions.” Yet because corruption “is a symptom of deeper institutional weakness,” the report also insisted on the importance of strengthening the key democratic bodies fighting corruption (“Report on Wilton Park Conference 748” in 2004, presented in appendix 2 of this book). Political parties are part of this set of institutions, aggregating diverse sets of interests, providing the structure for political participation and representation, and formulating policy options on a national level (Africa Political Party Finance Initiative 2004). However, political parties are also globally perceived to be the most corrupt institutions (Wolkers 2005). Therefore, Members of Parliament, in most cases also members of political parties, have a responsibility to ensure that their parties promote an anti-corruption agenda in their platform and that internally the party abstains from corrupt practices.
This chapter will outline how strengthening and institutionalizing political parties is therefore important in the fight against corruption. The first section provides a fairly detailed discussion of the notion of institutionalization. Particular attention is paid to the fact that the institutionalization of organizations depends on a combination of factors such as the organization’s age, generational age, adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence. The second section shows how the notion of institutionalization can be applied to parties and what it means for political parties to become institutionalized. The third section argues that the potential for corruption is inversely related to parties’ levels of institutionalization—so that the more a party is institutionalized, the less likely it is to become involved in corrupt practices—and will illustrate the argument with examples taken from developing nations. The final section will advance some suggestions as to what can be done to more fully institutionalize political parties.
The notion of institutionalization has been elaborated by Samuel Huntington (1968, 12), who defined institutionalization as