Political control and perceptions of corruption in Icelandic local government

Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson


Political control is an important value of democratic governance and without it democratic accountability can hardly mean much. This is why a number of authors have seen politicization of public service appointments and greater control by the centre as a potential counterweight against trends in recent decades towards more networked and less hierarchical organizational forms of directing public policy. It may help to reassert democratic control. The option of strengthening political control, however, has not been much studied with regard to its likely effects on corruption. Power has the potential to corrupt unless adequately controlled and strengthening political power in a networked environment may create a structure of temptation which conventional deterrents to corruption are unable to curb. The impact of strong political leadership on corruption is here studied in the context of Icelandic local government, making use of institutional variations in the office of Mayor, which provide a unique opportunity for testing the effects of strong political control on corruption. The analysis indicates that municipalities with strong political mayors are likely to be associated with perceptions of corruption even when other factors, such as the structure of temptation and deterrents, are accounted for.


Political control; bureaucratic autonomy; corruption; strong mayor; Icelandic municipalities


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13177/irpa.a.2015.11.1.1


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