Just Published! Rotten apples spoil the ballot: Effect of corruption on parties’ vote shares


When rotten apples spoil the ballot: The conditional effect of corruption charges on parties’ vote shares

International Political Science Review (Journal IF: 0.954)

Co-author: Marco Mainenti

Replication material: andreaceron.com/publications


What is worth remembering:

  • The electoral system moderates the effect of corruption charges on parties’ vote shares
  • Internal party rules related to selection of candidates moderate the effect of corruption charges on parties’ vote shares
  • To avoid the negative consequences of corruption charges on electoral performances, legislators could adopt an open list system or decentralized intra-party rules, preserving voters’ loyalty by allowing them to select individual candidates.
  • This has implications for the debate on the Italian electoral reform, given that some peculiar rules can limit the rise of anti-system parties when corruption scandals occur.


The impact of corruption charges on the electoral performance of parties is conditioned by specific institutional factors. This article shows the extent to which the effects of political corruption depend on the control that party leaders exercise over the ballot. It is argued that voters might abstain or support other lists if they cannot select individual candidates to revitalize the reputation of the political party. Employing data on judicial investigations in Italy from 1983 to 2013, we provide evidence of the role of electoral rules and intra-party candidate selection in shaping the relationship between corruption and voters’ behaviour. Parties implicated in corruption or related crimes experience a loss of votes when they compete under a closed list formula or when the candidate selection process is strongly centralized.