Untangling politics and crime – editorials
Expressing concern about the growing intersection of crime and politics, the Supreme Court (SC) has ordered political parties to publish the details of their candidates, with criminal charges, on their websites and social media platforms, and in newspapers . The parties must also clearly describe the nature of the charges and explain why these candidates have received tickets. This information must be made public, and a compliance report sent to the Electoral Commission (EC), within a specific period of time, and failure to do so could be interpreted as contempt. The order comes as a result of the lack of effective implementation of a 2018 court order that established similar guidelines, although somewhat more limited.
The presence of politicians with a criminal record distorts democracy. A weak criminal justice system means that those accused of crimes, including heinous ones, such as murder and rape, can find ways to avoid a final trial for years. They arise as locally influential figures, who have obtained resources illegally. They develop a link with the existing political leaders, the police machinery and then branch into new types of commercial activities, which depend on state sponsorship. They, then, enter politics. Many win For these legislators, public interest is not a priority.
The SC order is well intentioned. It will force political parties to be more transparent. The compliance requirement is particularly significant, since it imposes tangible costs on the parties if they do not provide the required information and grant additional power to the EC. But it is also important to underline the limits of the order and the extent of misuse. Current governments have shown a tendency to attack political rivals, misusing law enforcement agencies. It is important that the SC order does not reinforce this trend. Until candidates are convicted, they must be treated as innocent. The criminalization of politics also has deep roots. As political scientist Milan Vaishnav has explained, there is a problem on the supply side, in which these people seek to enter politics to preserve and expand wealth, and a problem on the demand side, where the dependence of parties on Illegal finance is high, and where voters see many individuals as capable of “doing the job.” Therefore, unless there are reforms in the criminal justice system that lead to rapid judicial decisions, there is a reform of the political financing regime and the dependence on wealth to win surveys is reduced, and unless there is a general reform in governance so that citizens no longer dependent on influential local representatives for work, politics and crime will remain entangled.