Mohan Murti

Politics, but with ethics

Mohan Murti | Updated on October 08, 2013

The German Reichstag... Symbol of transparency

Western Europe has zero tolerance for corruption in public office.

What kind of people are elected to parliaments in Europe? While several nations around the world have lifted mediocrity to an art, European leadership and those elected or appointed to represent Europeans offer much to be optimistic about. European laws make convicted criminals ineligible to stand for election.

Further, in several European countries, there is the ‘right to recall’ elected representatives: a by-election can be held if 10 per cent of voters in an MP’s constituency sign a petition demanding a vote. The same holds good if an MP has been for even less than 12 months or if “serious wrongdoing” is seen to have been done.

Practising democracy

A telling portrayal of democracy as practised in Western Europe is the acceptance of transparency and accountability” as precursors to good governance.

In the European context, transparency means honesty, candidness, sincerity and the rejection of secrecy and other opaque forms of operation. It supposes zero tolerance for corruption in public office and calls for accountability for decisions and actions. It means the dispensation of justice without fear or favour. It is the upholding of the rule of law and respect for officers of the law.

Another vital reason for the success of Western European economies is discipline. The Germans believe that talent and genius alone are not enough to make a successful nation. Discipline has an equally important role to play. In the words of German philosopher Wolfgang Goethe: “Talents blossom in a disciplined person.” Europeans consider discipline not only desirable but indispensable. They believe that when discipline, restraint and order of human conduct are absent, the ethical fabric corrodes. To prevent decay, discipline has to be imposed in the common interest and for the common good. But not blind, unflinching obedience at the cost of basic rights and liberties propagated by Hitler in Nazi Germany and Mussolini in Italy.

Good Governance

In almost all of Europe, good governance means enforcement of the rule of law and eradication of corruption, whereby governments and their institutions are made efficient, effective, transparent, participatory, accountable, responsible, responsive and consensus-oriented.

Good governance is viewed as a process and product dynamic in which the whole is considered first and then the parts follow. Thus, it begins with a vision and dovetails into particular deliverables. It includes a functioning administrative system at all levels that responds to all situations that affect the lives, property and wellbeing of the masses. State policy exhibits shows zero tolerance for corruption, lassitude and incompetence.

In Germany, merit, integrity and capability rule above all other considerations during elections or in making appointments to public offices and governing boards. There is no evidence of ascendance to power on parochial and provincial grounds.

In most of Europe, in keeping with the principle of equality before the law, members of parliament are excluded from the scope of inviolability. This means immunity is waived for several acts ranging from petty parking offences to major crimes. Bureaucrats, MPs and those in public office are disqualified if they have an existing or new conviction, or receive a prison sentence of one year or more.

(The author is former Europe Director, CII, and lives in Cologne, Germany.)

Published on October 08, 2013

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