In the wake of the ``third wave'' of democratization, scholars and practitioners were optimistic regarding the ease with which countries could adopt democratic norms and institutions. However, after four decades of democracy, many competitive regimes have not improved government probity or developed strong forms of accountability. Levels of economic and political development and ill-advised institutional designs were cited to explain these phenomena, but the role of political parties and their dynamics of interaction and competition remained poorly understood. Has the institutionalization of parties and party systems contributed to the control of corruption in neo-democracies?
This monograph analyzes the relationship between party systems and accountability for corruption. It claims that new democracies that have developed stable party systems and party organizations capable of incorporating societal demands are most able to build and maintain mechanisms of accountability. We test these arguments through a ``nested'' research design that includes an in-depth study of two Latin American democracies within a big-N statistical analysis. The monograph begins with a cross-country study that evaluates the association between party and party system institutionalization and the levels of political corruption across competitive democracies. It then traces the institutionalization of party systems in Brazil and Chile, and it explores specifics mechanisms through which parties and party elites hold politicians to account. The Chilean case represents a country that, after seventeen years of authoritarian rule, effectively institutionalized a democratic party system. Institutionalized stability in a context of parties and coalitions with distinguishable brands facilitated the responsiveness of parties and politicians in the face of accusations of political misdeeds. Partisan and institutional arrangements provided party elites with means and incentives to discipline politicians who threatened to damage parties' reputations. In Brazil, the consolidation of the post-authoritarian party system followed a more erratic path. An exceptionally permissive electoral system interacted with organizationally weak catch-all parties to give politicians and candidates high levels of autonomy from their organizations. ``Entrepreneurial'' politicians escaped accountability by cultivating electoral turfs in localized territories and by building personal instead of partisan reputations. Politicians involved in corruption found in this context broad opportunities to avoid responsibility for misdeeds.
The study contributes to the literature by broadening the understanding of how party system institutionalization influences the mechanisms of accountability for corruption. It is underscored that the stabilization of party competition is a necessary but insufficient condition to control corruption in new democracies. To be responsive over time, parties must develop channels to incorporate societal demands, so that politicians are less able to evade accountability and counteract the reputational costs of misdeeds through personalistic and clientelist appeals.