Anti-Corruption and Illiberalism in the Global South: Comparison of Russia, Brazil, and India

Marina Zaloznaya, University of Iowa

In a quote posted to the White House website (2021), President Biden states that “corruption threatens […] national security, economic equity, global anti-poverty and development efforts, and democracy itself.” The growing realization of dangers of corruption, reflected in this quote, has led to the recent consolidation of a global anti-corruption regime, which promotes institutional reforms and criminal justice enforcement around the world. Yet, while anti-corruptionism was gaining global legitimacy and amassing billions of dollars in spending, multiple countries experienced an illiberal turn in national politics. According to Freedom House, 2022 marked “the 15th consecutive year of decline in global freedom” (2022: n.p.). The manifestations of increasing illiberalism in governance include decreased citizen trust in institutions, civic apathy, attacks on civil society, restrictions on free media and independent judiciary, and the rise of oligarchs and right-wing populists. While the growing geopolitical impact of anti-corruptionism and heightened illiberalism are co-occurring, it is unclear whether and how they have informed each other. This paper will identify and theorize some pathways that may connect the two through a comparative analysis of three country cases – Russia under Putin, Brazil under Bolsonaro, and India under Modi. Each case will be built using different modalities of data: expert interviews, analysis of policy documents, political speeches, NGO reports, and media coverage. Through process-attentive analyses of these data within single countries, as well as comparative analyses across cases, this paper will spell out the different pathways whereby anti-corruptionism may be connected to illiberal surges, and theorize which socio- political conditions, and their combinations, are necessary for anti-corruptionism to lead to spikes in illiberal political rhetoric and action.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 158. Protest and Reform