Will 2012 be the year of voter revolt against corruption?
As almost the entire world continues to struggle with a seemingly endless recession, the public has turned to government for answers. In nation after nation, public officials have been slow to respond, or in many cases, too close to the wealthy interests to provide meaningful reforms for average citizens. Rather than fixing problems or stimulating the economy, governments have bailed out bankers and allowed the rich to dodge paying for their fair share of the tax burden. The corruption has led to lopsided policies, in which the lower- and middle-class people have been forced to swallow the lion's share of spending cuts, tax increases, and pension reductions.
The election results this week in Greece and France may be a sign of how voters are responding to corruption.
In France, Nicolas Sarkozy's government was plagued by corruption scandals. Earlier this year, Sarkozy faced accusations that his party accepted 50 million euros from the late Libyan strong man Muammar Gaddafi in 2007. The scandal enflamed other corruption problems for Sarkozy, including the "Woerth-Bettencourt Affair," allegations that his campaign accepted illicit contributions from the L'Oreal heiress Lillian Bettencourt in exchange for tax breaks:
In Greece, widespread graft and tax dodging -- coupled with the perception that the two major parties were helpless to address it -- is blamed for precipitating and deepening the economic crisis. In response, voters from across the ideological spectrum abandoned the status quo in one of the largest protest votes in modern Greek history. As The Telegraph noted, "Many Greeks would like to see the interest rates Greece must pay lowered and a switch in focus from public sector cuts to tax evasion by the rich."
Polls indicate that Greek and French sentiments are in line with a larger backlash. A new study from Gallup finds that "two in three adults worldwide believe corruption is widespread in the businesses in their countries." Rasmussen reports that 61% of American voters list corruption and government ethics as "very important."
The anti-corruption revolt may not be confined to Europe this election year.