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Electoral Clientelism and Vote Buying  

Anand Murugesan

Political competition between parties to win electoral support is a distinguishing feature of democratic forms of government. Parties seek to attract electoral support with programmatic promises (public goods, services) for the benefit of all citizens as well as targeted redistribution in several countries, broadly termed as “clientelistic linkages.” Cash, gifts and nonmaterial goods such as jobs, exclusive access to public services are forms of clientelistic goods discussed in the literature. Studies on clientelism have spiked since the last quarter of the 20th century in several disciplines including political science and economics. The studies have clarified the definitions and distinguished between the various forms of clientelism while shedding light on how parties decide to adopt the clientelistic approach, the form of benefits offered, whether groups or individuals are targeted for clientelistic benefits, the mechanisms that solve the political commitment problem inherent in clientelistic relationships, and the correlates and consequences of clientelism. The section on theory outlines a spatial model that predicts when political parties will target swing or core supporters for redistributive benefits. The advances in empirical methods for studying clientelism and vote buying, including experimental methods have provided evidence that politicians target swing or core supporters and at times adopt mixed strategies favoring both groups. The burgeoning empirical literature has clarified the effectiveness of vote-buying as well as anti-vote buying campaigns. A direct relationship between poverty and vote buying is now contested and it is evident that further research, particularly those tying up theory with empirical findings is required to understand clientelism and vote buying.

Article

Politicization of Public Services in Comparative Perspective  

John Halligan

The politicization of public services has been a relentless trend in public administration internationally. It can be attributed to the increasing demands on executive government, heightened partisanship and polarization, higher expectations about achieving official goals, and contextual factors that dilute the neutrality of the bureaucracy. It is also apparent that the spread of politicization has increased (i.e., encompassing countries once thought to be low on politicization) as has its breadth and depth (often extending down the bureaucracy and affecting a wide range of public servants). Within this broader trend, the timing and pace of politicization has varied widely among countries, some having long histories (several of the classic models of the “political civil servant”) and others being newcomers. Politicization takes a number of forms, most of which focus on political control and influence. Often there is a dominant instrument, such as relying on politically committed appointees, but multiple levers apply in many cases. A remarkable range of approaches has evolved to address political control. The rationale for particular types is generally shaped by an administrative tradition and reflects country contexts and circumstances. A strong case exists for partisan support to enhance the capacity of political executives, to counterbalance the vested interests of bureaucrats, to facilitate coalition government, and to ensure support at the top for government objectives and priorities. However, politicization can be arbitrary, chaotic, rampant, and overly focused on partisan and individual interests.

Article

Patronage and Public Administration  

Francisco Panizza, B. Guy Peters, and Conrado Ramos Larraburu

The concept of patronage refers to the power of political actors to appoint trusted individuals by discretion to nonelective positions in the public sector. This proposed new definition avoids an exclusive association with less developed countries and recognizes the presence of patronage in modern democracies, drawing a distinction with broader terms such as clientelism and politicization. Patronage differs from clientelism because the reasons for providing patronage include a list of other motives beyond the classic particularistic allocation of public resources. At the same time, patronage is not strictly equal to politicization, as this definition reduces the influence that politicians exert on the administrative machinery to a distribution of posts. In specifying what patronage is in narrower terms, this definition merges two different literatures, one associated with institutions and political parties, and another with bureaucracies, public policy, and governance issues. Even though the meritocratic civil service is a hallmark of modern democracies, the presence of political appointees in these societies is universal. Patronage provides some benefits for governance, and any normative assessment of this type of appointment should consider the costs and benefits of this practice within each particular political and cultural context.

Article

Corruption in African Politics  

Tom Lodge

Survey evidence indicates that political corruption is more prevalent in Africa than in any other global region, though there is also evidence of considerable variation between countries in degrees of corruption and where it is most likely to be located. Traditional explanations for the frequency of corrupt political behavior emphasized the effects of conflicting values that were a consequence of the imposition of modern forms of bureaucratic government upon societies in which authority rested upon personalized relationships. Contemporary African corruption’s historic roots and its variation across the continent may be the effect of the disjuncture or “incongruency” between colonial and successor postcolonial states and the precolonial political settings upon which they were imposed. Modern neo-patrimonialism is a coping response by rulers and citizens to conditions fostered by economic scarcity and institutional incapacity. Since the 1990s, democratization and liberalization have supplied fresh incentives and opportunities for venal politicians and officials. And even among Africa’s more capable and resourceful states, the institutional fluidity generated by democratic transition and economic reform has opened up possibilities of systematically organized state capture. Consequences of corruption certainly further impoverish poor people, and it is likely that corruption also limits economic growth and distorts government efforts to promote development. It is arguable that in the past, corruption may have helped to facilitate political stability but this is less likely in 2018, as evidence emerges of its corrosive effects on public trust in institutions. African anti-corruption efforts are constrained by the extent to which political power is exercised through patronage but there are instances of successful action, sometimes the byproduct of factional struggles within the political elite. As of 2018, there is no clear evidence of trends in success or failure in the work of African anti-corruption agencies.

Article

Political Party Organizations  

Thomas Poguntke, Susan E. Scarrow, and Paul D. Webb

How political parties organize directly affects who is represented and which policies are prioritized. Political parties structure political choice, which is one of the main functions generally ascribed to them. Their roles as gatekeepers for policies and political careers are closely linked to their nature as membership-based organizations, and to the extent to which they empower members to influence these crucial choices directly or indirectly. Parties also play a crucial role as campaign organizations, whose organizational strength influences their electoral success. The literature often summarizes differences in how parties organize and campaign by identifying major party types, which can be regarded as “classic models” of party organization. Yet, actual parties must adapt to changing environments or risk being supplanted by newer parties or by other political actors. For instance, in recent years one popular adaptation has involved parties opening their decision-making processes by introducing party-wide ballots to settle important questions. Changes like these alter how parties act as intermediaries in representation and political participation. Thanks to the increasing availability of comparable data on party organizations in established and new democracies, and in parliamentary and presidential systems, today’s scholars are better equipped to study the origins and impacts of parties’ organizational differences.

Article

The Politics of Fires and Haze in Southern Southeast Asia  

Helena Varkkey

Transboundary haze pollution originating from fires in Southern Southeast Asia affects about half of the countries in Southeast Asia with varied intensities on an almost annual basis. Haze not only affects visibility but also causes widespread health problems, transportation disruptions, and other socioeconomic issues. This haze and the fires that cause it have been a key topic for environmental politics research in the region since the late 1990s. This has largely been driven by one overarching objective: how to prevent haze from returning in the following years. However, conditions on the ground (mostly in Indonesia and in the larger Southeast Asian region) have been changing and evolving drastically, which has resulted in a dynamic research agenda that has to keep up. Within the context of environmental politics, fires and haze can be viewed through the broad lens of national interest. There is a strong link between the severity of haze and the burgeoning agribusiness sector in the region: that of oil palm in particular. Oil palm is a very important crop in the region, with Indonesia and Malaysia generating almost 90% of total global palm oil output. Hence, national and business interest theories have often been used as a framework for research in this area, with commercial oil palm plantations often being the unit of analysis. However, this has been called to question lately as these plantations face increasing market pressure to act more sustainably. A new group of actors that have since been highlighted are smallholders, either independent or in contract with larger plantations. There is potentially much to be uncovered with regard to the relationships between smallholders and commercial plantations and how they affect patterns of fire use and global sustainability issues. Related to this is the ever-evolving collection of local, regional, and national policies (and related enforcement issues) on land and fire use in Indonesia. One key area of contention is the use of peatlands. Fires on peat produce the thick, sooty smoke that travels across national boundaries, and they are notoriously hard to put out. Political research in this area is heavily framed by a tough debate between the scientific community and socioeconomic concerns. While peatlands play an important role in the global climate change balance, they also face immense pressure for development fueled by the scarcity of land. The regional context has also been an important theme for haze research. Haze primarily affects the Southern Southeast Asian subregion, and the major players of the palm oil sector come from this area. The Indonesian palm oil sector is a vibrant combination of Malaysian, Singaporean, and local companies. And the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has been the hub of cooperation and mitigation activities over haze. Hence, many scholars have searched for answers at the regional level. However, new national developments, such as Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, suggest that countries may be losing confidence in regional efforts.

Article

Historical Development of American Public Administration  

Mordecai Lee

The historical development of American public administration has evolved through four eras: clerks, civil service, administrative management, and under siege. During its early years government staffing was very sparse. A gradual thickening of the government workforce occurred during the 1800s, which was the era of clerks. Some were one-person agencies consisting of an elected official with administrative duties; others were patronage appointments by the candidate winning the presidency (or governor or mayor) rewarding supporters with jobs. After the Civil War, Union veterans increasingly populated nonpatronage positions. The assassination of President Garfield in 1881 by a disappointed office seeker crystalized public dissatisfaction with patronage, whether in Washington or by corrupt urban political machines. In 1883, the U.S. Congress passed a bill to create a merit-based civil service system. This began a second era of American public administration, that of civil servants. The original law only covered about 10% of all federal employees, but it set the precedent for gradual expansion of an apolitical civil service. Presidents came and went, but expert civil servants were unaffected. The rise of civil service also necessitated having employees to oversee them. These apolitical and expert managers led to the new profession of public administration, a development that required not only qualified practitioners but also credentialed faculty to train them. The 1932 election of Franklin Roosevelt as president triggered a third era, that of administrative management. This was a term used by FDR’s reorganization planning committee partly because it connoted a high-level focus on the president’s managerial needs. The concept encompassed both line and staff roles. Line officials ran bureaus and were accountable to the president. Staff functions, such as budgeting, HR, and planning facilitated effective management. In the post-FDR decades, especially after the 1960s, there was a gradually growing backlash against his kind of public administration. This became the fourth era, of government employees under siege. The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 epitomized it. Government was not the solution, he liked to say, government was the problem. Politicians now ran for office against government. Increasingly, the bureaucracy at all levels of government was viewed with hostility, an enemy needing to be controlled and reduced. Bureaucrats became the bad guys in America’s ongoing political narrative. After the election of President Donald Trump, a more ominous term came into use: the deep state. Supposedly, the bureaucracy now had a life of its own and could even destroy a president if it wanted to. Presumably, a fifth era of American public administration will eventually succeed this age of hostility toward all things governmental. If American history tells us anything, the outlines and themes of the fifth era will likely be surprising and unexpected. Nonetheless, government in a democracy will always need some form of public administration. No matter its precise outline, future public administration will likely retain the core values that government cannot be run like a business, that government’s purpose is to promote the public interest, and that public administration cannot be perfect. Mistakes will always happen, but these can be learning experiences for improvement rather than excuses for increasingly dysfunctional bureaucratic behavior.