Political Clientelism

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Irrespective of the different names, the conceptual meaning of the term remains ubiquitous. Political clientelism more often than not has been on the negative side with almost all critics. Baring a few critics, there is nothing much positive that has been attributed to this concept. One reason that could be behind this negative connotation is the fact that there are no specific set of exchanges that are included under this concept. Almost all political exchanges can be included in this term and hence it has led to a bad reputation.

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According to Piattoni (2004), when this concept is brought down to the basic essentials, it can be defined as a simple exchange between two persons of which, one is deserved to receive and, the other is obliged to provide it, mainly because of the difference of powers between the two persons. Also, Mason (1986) has explained that such an exchange involves “the patron providing clients with access to the basic means of subsistence and the clients reciprocating with a combination of economic goods and services (such as rent, labor, portions of their crops) and social acts of deference and loyalty”The above-given exploitation could be considered as a kind of old, traditional definition associated with this concept.

However, with the evolution of age, the concept has been taken up by political parties in an altogether different context. The modern electoral voting system and the concept of democracy have given the clients, the power to choose their leaders and hence an upper hand. So, an exchange that was meant to be done on the basis of obligation has turned out to be a concept where the politicians provide direct remunerations in the form of subsidiaries and means of sustenance to the voters to buy their vote.

Although there are some people who vote out of obligation, the context is soon changing towards a “buy your vote” concept. (Hopkin, 2006) Several countries like India, Japan, Italy, and India have exhibited the existence of such situations during elections. Bulgaria is one such country where political clientelism has spread its roots but unfortunately, it too has fallen on the wrong side of democracy.

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