Faith in politics eroded - survey


The public's faith in political parties has been sharply eroded during the financial crisis, with four out of five people saying they are corrupt or very corrupt, a survey suggested today.

The 2010 Global Corruption Barometer by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International (TI) showed that 79 per cent of respondents in a global study believed parties were "corrupt or extremely corrupt", up from 69 per cent in 2009.

TI said the sample of countries used was slightly larger in 2010, and that if a comparison was made between 65 nations polled in both years, the increase was more pronounced - 82 per cent saw parties as corrupt in 2010, up from 68 per cent last year.

"The fall-out of the financial crises continues to affect people's opinions of corruption, particularly in Europe and North America," chairwoman Huguette Labelle said.

"Institutions everywhere must be resolute in their efforts to restore good governance and trust," she added.

The survey showed that six out of 10 people believed corruption had increased over the past three years. One in four people reported paying bribes in the last year, it added.

Pessimism is most widespread in Europe and North America, where 73 per cent and 67 per cent of people respectively think corruption has increased. Still, the survey found seven out of 10 people said they would be prepared to report corruption.

Although the public's perception of politicians is suffering, confidence in the judiciary has improved, TI said. While 49 per cent believed judges were corrupt in 2009, the percentage fell to 43 per cent this year, the report showed.

A breakdown of the TI figures showed that trust in political parties had markedly declined over the past few years in countries such as Britain and the United States, the two countries seen to be at the heart of the Anglo-Saxon capitalist model.

On a scale in which 1 indicated "not at all" and 5 "extremely" respondents were asked to what extent they believed political parties to be corrupt.

In the United States, the corruption rating awarded to parties rose to 4.3 in 2010 from 3.6 in 2004. In Britain, the figure rose from 4.0 from 3.4.

Transparency International’s Irish branch surveyed 1,000 Irish residents between June and September this year.

In a barometer measuring between 1 and 5, at which 5 is the most corrupt, participants scored Irish political parties at 4.4, up from 3.9.  Other countries hit hard by the financial crisis also showed notable increases, TI said. In Greece, the figure rose to 4.6 from 3.8.

Six out of 10 Irish people felt levels of corruption had risen in the past three years. The public’s trust in the church and the Oireachtas deteriorated most dramatically since the last study was carried out in 2007. However, the perception of corruption in business, the media, NGOs, the education system, the Garda and the military also deteriorated. The only improvement was in relation to the legal system.

More than eight out of 10 people believed the Government was ineffective in tackling the abuse of power while 4 per cent claimed they had paid a bribe in the last year.

Chief executive of Transparency Ireland John Devitt said the findings were not surprising. “If anything, it’s surprising the Irish figures are not worse,” he said.

“People rightly fear that nothing much will change and that those responsible for the collapse of our economy will not suffer the consequences,” Mr Devitt said.

“Before this next general election the public needs to send the politicians a clear message that they don’t want to see business as usual. They want to see reform. They want to see politics cleaned up,” he added.