What do the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, the defeat of Silvio Berlusconi, Italian prime minister, and the indictment of Tom DeLay, former US House majority leader, all have in common?
This is one reason the slogan for many opposition movements in these countries revolves around the idea of "enough!" - whether it is the "Kifaya" movement in Egypt, or the "Kmara" movement in Georgia before that country's Rose Revolution. It is a call for more political freedom, but also for economic fairness after years of voters seeing the gains from their hard work disappear into someone else's pocket.
But corruption is no longer just a developing world issue. Democrats are riding into November's US congressional elections charging that Washington is mired in a "culture of corruption", as ties between Republican leaders such as Mr DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the convicted fraudster, become clear. This same basic charge played a major role in Romano Prodi's victory in April against Mr Berlusconi in the Italian election and in the troubles that Jacques Chirac, president, and his UMP party face in France.
The same forces of globalization that shrunk the global marketplace also create a larger space for graft and political grand theft - as well as more opportunity and impetus for voters to resist it. As James Surowiecki recently pointed out in The New Yorker, the pressures for modernization in transitional economies create huge openings for corruption. As leaders privatise utilities and establish new regulatory regimes in a globalized economy, public offices have more lucrative opportunities to steer capital flows, provide safe havens for illicit cash, or lend official imprimatur to private schemes. Political elites are often the last to understand that the people mean business in their calls for reforms. More surprising is the critique that has emerged from some scholars of global affairs, who argue that an overwrought focus on corruption detracts attention from more pressing issues. Last year, Moises Naim, the editor of Foreign Policy, wrote in The Washington Post that "the war on corruption is undermining democracy, helping the wrong leaders get elected and distracting societies from facing urgent problems".
It therefore makes sense for the World Bank and other agencies to make governance reforms a priority in the development agenda. But the rising scale and toll of corruption also means that it will be more of a first order political issue in more and more countries. Those politicians who take the lead on this issue - explaining its costs, identifying its perpetrators and offering solutions - are likely to find themselves in line with most voters in their national elections and marching in front of what is becoming a global demand for transparency and change.
* This article was first published in The Financial Times, August 18, 2006.