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Survey Says Political Parties Seen as Most Corrupt Institutions

Political parties are seen as the institutions most afflicted by corruption, according to a survey released by a non-governmental organization that monitors corruption. The release of the report coincides with the first U.N.International Anti-Corruption Day.

Political parties are seen as the most corrupt institution, according to a global survey by Transparency International, a Berlin-based organization dedicated to combating corruption worldwide. In 36 out of 62 countries surveyed, political parties were rated by the general public as the institution most affected by corruption.

"I think one telling figure is that political corruption is not just seen as a problem in the developing world. It really is in the developed world as well."

This is Jeff Lovitt, director of communications for Transparency International's secretariat in Berlin. He says the 2004 Global Corruption Barometer shows that people think corruption affects their political lives, as well as their personal and business lives.

"This shows there is an immense level of distrust of people in power, particularly politicians, with political parties coming out as the institutions people consider to be most affected by corruption in a majority of the countries surveyed," said Jeff Lovitt. "And, I think, the fact that it is followed by parliament and judiciary and the police shows an immense lack of trust between ordinary people and the people they need to turn to, if they need help, justice, redress of a grievance."

The Transparency International survey was released to coincide with the first U.N. International Anti-Corruption Day. Transparency International is using the day to pressure governments to ratify the U.N. Convention against Corruption. The convention was signed last December, and 30 states need to ratify it before it comes into force. To date, only 12 states have ratified the convention.

The United States has signed, but not ratified the treaty.

Transparency International's Jeff Lovitt says the U.N. convention is needed to make sure that politicians and public officials who abuse their powers are not immune from prosecution. He cited examples, such as former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who faces charges of murder and corruption at home and is living in exile in Japan, and former Argentine President Carlos Menem, who lives in Chile and is wanted by Argentina on embezzlement charges.

"With mutual legal assistance, it means that it is going to be much easier to get politicians like [Alberto] Fujimori extradited from Japan to Peru, and others, like Carlos Menem, who is being given safe haven outside of Argentina," he said. "[The U.N. Convention means] that people who have been accused of corruption - just like other politicians or public figures who have been accused of human-rights abuses - that they will be brought to justice."

The survey distinguished between 'grand corruption,' or corruption at the highest levels of society, and business and 'petty corruption,' or corruption in ordinary people's lives, such as bribes paid for traffic violations. Worldwide, 10-percent of respondents said that they or members of their families had paid bribes in the previous 12 months.

Looking to the future, 45 percent of respondents worldwide expected the level of corruption to increase in the next three years, compared with only 17 ercent who expected it to decrease.

The Global Corruption Barometer is an international survey of the general public carried out by the Gallup International polling firm.