Corrupting Popular Sovereignty

Populism draws on the unilateral authority of a charismatic leader with an electoral mandate. The result is governance in disregard of the institutions of governance. Even more centrally, populist leaders try to dismantle or “corrupt” institutional constraints to allow for greater individual discretionary power and tilt the electoral arena in their favor. Two forms of corruption are examined. The first is the attempt to subordinate the electoral system itself. The second is the use of state discretionary authority to push the boundaries of clientelism and ultimately outright corruption. The claim is that because corruption invites review by broader layers of judicial and prosecutorial authorities than constitutional law, this branch of “ordinary law” may prove a key limitation on populism.