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Study: Corruption Levels Linked to Health of Democracies

Edda Mueller, chairwoman of Transparency International Germany, stands for the media with the Corruption Perceptions Index 2018, before the presentation of the yearly report at a news conference in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 29, 2019.
Study: Corruption Levels Linked to Health of Democracies
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Countries like Hungary and Turkey are growing more corrupt as they turn to governments under the control of a single person or political party.

That claim comes from a new report. It also says that threats to the American system of government have pushed the United States from a list of the lowest levels of corruption.

The Berlin-based group Transparency International prepared the report.

Transparency says its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2018 showed more than two-thirds of countries have a rating below 50. Under the index, a rating of 100 is considered very clean, with little or almost no corruption, while zero means very corrupt.

The group reported on Tuesday that the United States dropped out of its top 20 nations for the first time since 2011. It received a rating of 71, four points less than the U.S. rating in 2017.

The group said, “A four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balance.” It also noted a breakdown “of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.”

“If this trend continues, it would indicate a serious corruption problem in a country that has taken a lead on the issue,” Transparency said. It added that the issue affects not just those in power, and requires a solution reached by two or more sides.

Corruption and democracy

In a comparison of the report with findings about democracy worldwide, Transparency said it identified a link between corruption and the health of a democracy.

Full democracies had an average of 75 on the corruption index; weak or problematic democracies averaged 49, and autocratic countries averaged 30, the group said.

Transparency noted that Hungary dropped eight points and Turkey nine over the past five years. At the same time, it noted a report on democracy from the U.S. government-financed Freedom House. In that report, Turkey was moved from a “partly free” rating to “not free,” while Hungary registered its lowest rating for political rights since the collapse of communist rule in 1989.

“Our research makes a clear link between having a healthy democracy and successfully fighting public sector corruption,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, the head of Transparency.

She said that corruption is more likely to take hold where democratic systems are weak and where undemocratic and populist politicians can use it for their own purposes.

Transparency’s 2018 report listed Denmark as the least corrupt nation, with a rating of 88. Denmark was followed by New Zealand, Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland.

Somalia, with a rating of 10, was listed as the most corrupt nation.

The index is based on 13 different measures that provide opinions of public sector corruption from business people and country experts.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

David Rising reported this story for the Associated Press. George Grow adapted his report for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

index – n. a list of some kind; a system of measurement

checksn. limits or restraints

ethical adj. honorable or just; honest; true

trendn. a general movement