Getty Images

The Year Ahead 2018

The Venal Roots of Political Turmoil

One corruption scandal after another has upended politics and toppled national leaders across a wide range of countries. In our age of populism, corruption is about far more than cash-stuffed envelopes and back-room deals – and the sooner we recognize it for the systemic problem it is, the sooner we’ll understand today’s politics.

WASHINGTON, DC – In 2017, corruption became a byword for politics on almost every continent, framing government action in countries as different as China, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil. Corruption and its attendant scandals toppled presidents and prime ministers, cut down political opposition leaders, and fueled “populist” revolts worldwide. Without accounting for systemic official misconduct, our current era of political turbulence simply doesn’t make sense.

In Brazil, investigations have been ongoing into what one judge has described as a “scheme of systemic corruption” between public officials and the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras. As a result of the investigations, President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office in August 2016, and former President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva was convicted and sentenced to prison in July of this year.

Similarly, in South Korea, a corruption scandal led to President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and removal from office in March, and to the imprisonment of Lee Jae-yong, the heir apparent at Samsung, in August.

To continue reading, please subscribe to On Point.

To access On Point or our archived content, log in or register now now and read two On Point articles for free and 2 archived contents. For unlimited access to the unrivaled analysis of On Point and archived contents, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.