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In the Czech Republic it is estimated that about 10% of the governmental expenses are lost as cost of corruption (I think the source is Transparency International, but I can not find it now). This cost is about 100 billion CZK/year. Yet, the country's main parliamentary elections are only once in four years and cost only about 1 billion CZK. If I use mathematics then if Czechs voted against this corruption then we could have 100 parliamentary elections every year and still would cover the election cost from the savings on corruption.

Often after the one four-year cycle the opposition wins and sometimes reverts important long-term political decisions like the way pension/retirement plans work, which is not really good. Such decisions need broad political consensus and in case of shorter election cycles, such consensus would be found faster I think, because the changes would be reverted by the opposition possibly after one year already which would make less damage to the country.

My question is very simple - would the shorter election cycles - let's say one-year cycle - bring cleaner politics with better consensual decisions (even with a possible smaller turnout since some people may not like to vote that often)?

The rationale is to give voters more power to control politics. The politics would need to behave in order to be re-elected. Probably a smaller election turnout would be needed since the politics probably would "just work" so say a 10% turnout would still roughly represent public opinion and more voters would only participate if a greater change would be needed.

PS. I am not able to find the sources for my claims above right now. If someone is interested please leave a comment I will try to do so.

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  • 3
    In the U.S. we elect all our representatives and a third of our senators every two years, it still doesn't help much.
    – Ryathal
    Commented May 15, 2014 at 12:18
  • 6
    Wow, only 10%.
    – user1873
    Commented May 15, 2014 at 15:14
  • As @Ryathal said, the only thing that shortening the period beyond a reasonable time seems to achieve is that the politicians in power spend (X*2 %) of time of their period in power doing pretty much exclusively work for the NEXT reelection, instead of X%.
    – user4012
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 23:50
  • 1
    Also, at least part of the corruption is driven by the need to raise reelection funds....
    – user4012
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 23:55
  • @DVK: Assuming that's true (and it likely is) then it stands to reason that the best thing for us plebes would be if elections were held every other month. Then we could get on with our lives comfortably knowing that the politicians wouldn't be doing more to screw it up.
    – NotMe
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 22:23

2 Answers 2

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A shortening of the election cycle would result in:

  • a greater degree of overheads
  • a risk of reduced traction (the bigger the government - the more pronounced this issue - and this is a situation where new 'heads' require time to get a feel for their 'feet' so as to start 'running' their respective sections)
  • also an increased pressure to switch to electronic voting systems (for those ware of such an event)

The reduced cycle may also result in the poorer utilization of funds that may arise from the EU as a loss of traction may also stall leadership of government or parastatal departments.


Corruption is a consequence of imperfect structures of accountability. The bigger the government - the poorer the structure of the government - the greater the degree of corruption that may be expected.

Furthermore the more vertical the governing structure (the number of levels removed that the top echelons are from that of the individual citizen), the greater the potential for corruption.

If reduction of corruption is the only goal to be considered then a restructure towards a more horizontal layout would be desirable - and in this scenario there could surely be certain levels of elections that could feasibly be taken more frequently - particularly the localized ones.


In theory, yes a shorter electoral cycle could promote cleaner politics. However it would be just as likely to promote popular politics. The four year cycle tends to be played out such that the tougher, less popular, decisions tend to be made in the first couple of years. The second half of the cycle tends to be used to regain face in the eyes of the voters.

If one were to reduce the cycle to half or quarter of this length then unpopular choices would be less likely to be made - and the rights of minorities would be side-lined as a structurally-consequent 'tyranny by majority' would remain in the fore - shaping the popular politics of the day.

And popular politics is not necessarily clean politics. The shorter cycle may provide a lot less breathing space for political parties to commit to unpopular measures but the resultant fear may result in a form of leadership paralysis - populism by design.

This is not to say that a shorter cycle cannot clean politics up - but the more vertical the structure of the government - the greater the chance of populist paralysis.

If the government were to first be flattened to consist of far fewer levels such that the lower levels become localized to particular locales, it is upon those levels that a shorter electoral cycle could yield more promising results.

A more direct involvement of the citizen in determining the destiny of the self as well as the community is desirable and more relevant than when compared with the alternative - a vote of a citizen on the far side of the country filtering upwards only to lose meaning in a mesh result that is applied in blanket form upon the entire nation (couple with lop-sided access to resources (media included) and you may run the risk of ending up with a mockery of that which democracy should be.)

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  • Regarding your profile, what do you mean by "digital weirdness" / "code is liberty"?
    – Pacerier
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 16:27
  • Ah. Simply put, the virtual environment of a computer program is not constricted to the realities of the world. If you wish to throw gravity out of the window - such may be done. If you wish to explore the dynamics of a society very different from that which we know - that may be explored also. The most critical confinement one encounters is one's imagination - and one's imagination manifested (digitally or otherwise) can certainly classify as wierdness to the casual bystander.
    – Avestron
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 17:19
  • @Pacerier Furthermore - and I think that this is the crux of your question - when you are presented with a development environment you are free to explore the possibilities - You can manifest yourself through it without interference - whether such be politically or with intent to make a profit. It can be as much a level of existence as walking upon the Earth. Of course there do exist movements to restrict information in general... but the code space can be explored inwardly also.
    – Avestron
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 17:23
  • What "movements to restrict information" do you mean?
    – Pacerier
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 9:31
  • @Pacerier It is a subject that opens broadly... Examples mainly boil down to: a) Proprietary Forces (intellectual property/ licencing), and b) the engineering of perspectives (Countries that restrict access to certain information on the basis of subject, alignment, geographic basis, etc.). In fairness I think that this conversation may best take the form of another question in a suitable SE section as we have strayed far from topic :)
    – Avestron
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 9:49
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No.

There is no meaningful link between the duration of an elected official's term and corruption.

In general, almost by definition, corruption is something that subverts the formal rules, so changing the formal rules wouldn't make a difference.

This isn't to say that term of office durations don't matter, or that all choices are equally good. But, they basically govern parameters about issues like the time horizon of legislators and how quickly the electoral process responds to changes in public opinion, not to corruption or the lack thereof. Many democratic Republics have multiple different terms for different offices, but these details don't correlate with corruption (at least absent immense extremes like 30 days terms, or 30 year terms).

The E.U. Presidency manages with six month terms. The U.S. Senate has six year staggered terms. The U.K. House of Commons has indefinite terms of up to five years sometimes extended for up to ten years in times of war. It wouldn't be reasonable to argue that corruption or the lack thereof in those bodies has much to do with those particular differences in isolation. In the U.S. state and local government bodies with four year terms aren't meaningfully more or less corrupt than those with two year terms.

Selected Factors That Do Lead To Corruption

Presidents Before Parliaments

One distinction that has been demonstrated empirically is that in countries with semi-Presidential system with a President and a Prime Minister that both have significant power, that coups are less likely if the parliament, rather than the President, is the first person elected with civilian independent rule is established following colonial or military rule (I'll link to the citation if I can find it).

Often, if the President is elected first, the Parliamentary elections never end up being held.

Cousin Marriage And Secret Societies

Another factor that has been empirically strongly linked to corruption is the rate of cousin marriage in a society (more cousin marriage is associated with more corruption and there are solid arguments that this is causal rather than a historical accident).

More generally, any informal structure that commands greater allegiance than the formal governmental requirements and obligations of officials can have the same effect. The Anti-Masonic movement in the 19th century U.S. was concerned about this kind of ideologically based corruption.

Unreasonable Or Impossible Laws

Yet another factor that is associated with corruption is the existence of laws that for some reason of political process or reality can't be changed, but are undercut by powerful grass roots forces to disobey.

Some historical examples of this are alcohol prohibition in the U.S., drug prohibition in Mexico, and the prohibition of divorce in Ireland and Italy.

Likewise, any system that demands the impossible tends towards corruption.

For example, newly independent Sudan designed its judiciary in a way that made it necessary to have legally trained judges in all of its courts, but had only about 200 legally trained professionals in the entire country, some of whom were engaged in non-judicial legislative and civil service posts, when it needed thousands of legally trained professionals to make its judicial system work, and this resulted in a great deal of corruption before the initially independent regime collapsed in part due to corruption.

Underpaid Officials

Failing to pay civil servants what they need to make a decent living is a classic driver of corruption.

A close variation of this problem is when legislators or civil servants lack sufficient resources of their own to do their jobs and must rely on private interested parties for those resources instead.

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  • Would it be possible to link shorter terms to higher corruption as you have less time to get money out of the system?
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 21:17
  • (+1) There is no such as the EU presidency. The one that lasts six months is the rotating presidency of the EU council, held by a country and a whole team rather than a person. It's planed long in advance and doesn't result from an election. For many years, the head of state or government of that country would also chair the meetings of the European Council (not the same thing as the EU Council) but that's not the case anymore.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 21:40
  • Since 2009, there is however a president of the European Council, appointed for a 2.5 years term. They have fancied themselves as presidents of the EU in general but the presidents of the Commission would beg to differ.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 21:41
  • Incidentally, the six-month duration of a presidency was seen as a problem and led to the concept of “presidency trios” working together over a 1.5 year cycle.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 21:45
  • @Relaxed O.K., minor terminology quibbles. Doesn't really undermine that point that short terms of office for senior political officers of a government, whatever their disadvantages, don't consistently lead to corruption in and of themselves.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 17:57

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