Legislative Ethics and Codes of Conduct

25 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2007

See all articles by Rick Stapenhurst

Rick Stapenhurst

McGill University - School of Continuing Studies

Riccardo Pelizzo

Nazarbayev University

Date Written: 2004


The purpose of this paper is to discuss why and how ethics reforms have been enacted by many parliaments in the course of the past decade. Our argument is fairly straightforward. Politicians' perceived irresponsiveness, various forms of misconduct and corruption scandals have eroded voters' trust in politicians and political institutions. In order to induce a more ethical behavior among politicians as well as to rebuild public trust in political institutions, ethics regimes have been adopted by several legislatures. Such regimes have generally taken two main forms: ethics codes and conduct codes. Ethics codes tend to be fairly general documents: they formulate broad principles of behavior but they do not define what is appropriate and what is inappropriate behavior, nor do they establish sanctions for violations of the code. By contrast, codes of conduct tend to contain very specific provisions with clear sanctions for those who violate the dispositions of the code. Terminological confusion arises, however, because some parliamentary ethics codes include dispositions and sanctions that are more commonly found in codes of conduct. This paper attempts to clear this terminological confusion, reviewing the dispositions and sanctions that may included in both ethics and conduct codes, with special attention to probable success factors. It underlines the importance of cultural factors, suggesting that one of the success factors is whether the individuals that the code is regulates actually share the same ethical standards, have a common understanding of what is appropriate behavior and a common understanding of what constitutes misconduct.

Keywords: Parliament, Legislature, Code of Conduct. Code of Ethics

Suggested Citation

Stapenhurst, Rick and Pelizzo, Riccardo, Legislative Ethics and Codes of Conduct (2004). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1026330 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1026330

Rick Stapenhurst

McGill University - School of Continuing Studies ( email )

Montreal, QC

Riccardo Pelizzo (Contact Author)

Nazarbayev University ( email )

53 Kabanbay Batyra Avenue
Astana, 010000

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