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Ryan Campbell
Ryan Campbell

Political Corruption and Clientelism: What They Are, How They Differ, and Why They Matter

Comparing Political Corruption and Clientelism

Political corruption and clientelism are two phenomena that affect the quality of democracy, governance, and development in many countries around the world. But what do they mean exactly? How are they different from each other? And how are they related? In this article, we will explore these questions and provide some examples, effects, and solutions for both political corruption and clientelism.

Comparing Political Corruption and Clientelism

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What is political corruption?

Political corruption is the abuse of public power for private gain. It occurs when public officials use their position or authority to benefit themselves, their relatives, their friends, or their allies, at the expense of the public interest. Political corruption can take many forms, such as bribery, embezzlement, nepotism, electoral fraud, etc.


Bribery is the act of offering or receiving money, gifts, favors, or services in exchange for influencing the actions or decisions of a public official. For example, a business owner may bribe a politician to get a favorable contract, a license, or a tax exemption. A citizen may bribe a police officer to avoid a fine, a ticket, or an arrest. A judge may bribe a witness to change his or her testimony. Bribery undermines the rule of law, the accountability of public officials, and the fairness of markets.


Embezzlement is the act of stealing or misusing public funds or assets entrusted to a public official. For example, a government employee may embezzle money from the budget, a project, or a program. A politician may embezzle funds from a campaign, a party, or a donor. A military officer may embezzle weapons or equipment from the army. Embezzlement deprives the public of essential resources and services that could be used for development and welfare.