On May 15th, Pepita Miquel-Florensa, Assistant Professor at the Toulouse School of Economics and Research Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study in Tolouse, presented her paper "Voting Corrupt Politicians Out of Office: Evidence from an Experiment in Paraguay". This question is specially relevant while analyzing the way in which democratic institutions work in Latin American countries, where corruption is usually very common and frequently accepted by the population.
Paraguay is ranked 123 out of 176 in the corruption perception index, and this is demonstrated by several scandals that Pepita used to conduct her study. One of the most notorious corruption cases was named the "Golden Nanny", in which senator Victor Bogado used public money to pay for the house nanny in Paraguay, a country in which senators have legal immunity and cannot be judged. A proposal was debated in Senate to abolish that immunity, but fell short of 23 votes. These 23 senators who voted against the proposal were regarded as traitors by the general public, not only for not condeming Mr Bogado, but for defending their own personal senatorial benefits.
In this context, the project that Pepita presented was based on a change in the electoral mechanism: opening up the currently closed electoral lists. With closed lists, corrupt politicians have been able to access and stay in public office without impediments. With open lists, she proposed that voters would have more information while voting and that they could decide which candidates represent their interests in public institutions. The method used by the experiment simulated the 2013 elections with the same candidates, but before people casted their vote, information about the latest corruption scandals was provided.
After the method was repeated both with closed and open lists, the results showed that no significant change in election results was observed with closed lists. However, when the lists are open and voters can decide which senators are not voted, there is a significant change in results. Apart from voting corrupt politicians out of office, the absolute number of voters also increases by 10%.