The Australian Experience of Electoral Bribery: Dealing in Electoral Support
Australian Journal of Politics & History, Vol. 56, No. 2, pp. 226-242, 2010
17 Pages Posted: 17 May 2010 Last revised: 14 Oct 2011
Date Written: 2010
This article explores cases from the past thirty years - legal judgments, inquiries and political scandals - which implicate the law and concept of electoral bribery. It examines two types of deals to obtain electoral support, each 'horizontal' (that is between political actors, rather than the traditional, vertical vote-buying by politicians from electors). One group of deals is between parties, particularly involving recommendations of support or preferences of minor parties (an integral part of AV, STV or run-off voting). The other type of deal is between politicians and 'third parties', and the cases studied involve both the media, and lobby groups. Defying assumptions that electoral bribery died out a century ago, the article demonstrates that it remains a thorny ethical and legal concept, especially given evolving norms and electioneering practices. If bribery is to be a workable ethical or legal concept for judging contemporary electoral conduct, then it needs to deal with horizontal relations rather than its traditional focus upon vertical relations between politicians and electors. The article develops the idea of 'political currency' to explain why some horizontal deals are unobjectionable, and considers the relevance of secrecy in deal-making.
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