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Contribution of anti-corruption measures to democracy promotion

This paper focuses on how anti-corruption efforts contribute to democracy promotion by examining the impact of anti-corruption measures on four democratic principles: the separation of powers, political competition, political participation and democratic culture. Evidence indicates that anti-corruption reforms can make a positive contribution to the quality of democracy through policy instruments that enhance integrity, transparency, participation, accountability, independence and justice. For instance, anti-corruption initiatives such as political finance transparency can promote political competition, while anti-corruption reforms in the judiciary can reinforce the separation of powers. However, there is also a risk of anti-corruption campaigns undermining democracy. For example, anti-corruption rhetoric can be weaponised by despotic and populist leaders to consolidate power, or anti-corruption messaging can have unintended consequences that undermine public trust and democracy. Various measures have been suggested by scholars and practitioners to mitigate the risk of anti-corruption becoming a pretext for authoritarian policies. These include “doing anti-corruption democratically” through problem-driven approaches (considering context instead of looking for universal toolkits), and following the do not harm principle, particularly in fragile contexts.

17 November 2022
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Contribution of anti-corruption measures to democracy promotion

Main points

  • Corruption is understood as a driver of democratic decline, lowering public trust in government, prejudicing sound policymaking to favour private interests, as well as leading to the capture of accountability mechanisms and oversight bodies.
  • Anti-corruption reforms in the judiciary and parliamentary development programmes are examples of how anti-corruption may deepen the principle of separation of power.
  • Anti-corruption initiatives such as political finance transparency and integrity safeguards in elections promote political competition.
  • Risks of anti-corruption to undermine democracy include its weaponisation by despotic and populist leaders to consolidate power, as well as unintended consequences of anti-corruption messages that undermine democratic values.

Cite this publication

Duri, J.; Bak, M.; (2022) Contribution of anti-corruption measures to democracy promotion. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Helpdesk Answer 2022:20)

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About the authors

Jorum Duri

Jorum is a Research Coordinator at Transparency International, with his primary responsibilities at the Anti-Corruption Helpdesk.

Mathias Bak


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)