What were the major political scandals around the world in the 2000s?

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The first decade of the 21st century was replete with salacious, riveting, occasionally repugnant, and occasionally gratifying political scandals. They are too numerous to mention individually, but a few have risen to the top. What, then, made these scandals so memorable? In some instances, it was the shock value alone. In the case of others, it was their influence over public policy and public opinion. In other cases, it was the fact that someone was captured on tape, which cannot be disputed. 

Political controversies are nearly as old as politics itself; they range from unethical behavior to financial misdeeds to the occasional sex scandal. Politicians who are implicated in it frequently lose their positions or even go to jail.

Here is a list of some of the top political controversies of the 2000s.

1. State Duma (Russia)

State Duma building

The State Duma is the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, and it has been criticized in the past for serving as President Dmitry Medvedev’s rubber stamp. This perception was reinforced in May 2010 when the House passed a new law on drunk driving on the first reading by a margin of 440 to 450. A tidal wave! However, there was a minor issue. That day, only 88 deputies had shown up to work.

The news on Ren TV included a video of deputies racing from empty seat to empty seat and pressing the voting buttons of their absent colleagues. According to the report, it was possible for deputies to have voted as many as nine times in the twenty seconds during which ballots were cast. The footage was also preserved on YouTube, allowing millions of people to view the egregious violation of Russian parliamentary procedure.

2. Silvio Berlusconi (Italy) 

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi an Italian Prime Minister, a former lounge vocalist on cruise ships, and no stranger to the legal system. Multiple times he has been charged with fraud, bribery, and corruption, but these accusations have been overshadowed by his sex controversies.

One case involved Patrizia D’Addario, an escort who alleged that Berlusconi had been her client three times. He denied the allegation to Corriere della Sera, stating, that he has never paid a woman and he has never grasped the concept of satisfaction in the absence of the joy of conquest.

During their relationship, he was also linked to Noemi Letizia, who was still a minor. In April 2011, the Prime Minister stood for trial for allegedly employing a 17-year-old performer as an escort.

3. Gordon Brown (Britain)

Gordon Brown with Boris Johnson

Gordon Brown, British Prime Minister and Labour Party leader, was fighting for his political survival in April 2010. One month before a difficult election, the man who succeeded Tony Blair required everything to go right. On April 28, he participated in a televised debate with Gillian Duffy, a 65-year-old retiree and Labour supporter. After the conclusion of the conversation, Brown was driven away in his vehicle, smiling the entire time. He immediately began lamenting about the experience, calling Duffy a “bigoted woman” with whom he never should have had to interact.

Unfortunately, Brown was unaware that he was still wearing a live microphone provided by Sky News, which was caught up and rebroadcast by every station that obtained it. Brown was forced to apologize to Duffy on BBC Radio and then visit her home for 43 minutes to apologize in person after the video went viral. Duffy was unimpressed, refusing to clasp his hand and stating that she was unlikely to vote as a result. On election day, the Labour Party suffered its worst defeat since 1931, losing 91 seats, and Brown resigned as both party leader and prime minister.

4. Jean Tiberi (France) 

Jean Tiberi

Jean Tiberi has served the Parisian populace for decades. In addition to serving as the city’s mayor for six years, he has served as the mayor of Paris’s 5th administrative district since 2007 and was a member of the French National Assembly. However, he and his wife Xaviere have both experienced numerous encounters with scandal. In 1998, a judge ordered a search of their residence, during which they were discovered to be in possession of numerous illegal firearms, which they were required to destroy in exchange for the dismissal of their charges.

In 2005, the Tiberis were investigated for fraudulently registering more than 7,000 electors, 3,315 of whom voted for him in the 1997 election. But lest anyone think that Xaviere Tiberi was simply supporting her husband, she has been portrayed in the French press as the more aggressive of the two, a view based in part on an incident in 2004 in which she engaged in a physical altercation with Aurielle Filipetti of the French Green Party after a district council meeting, an altercation that left Tiberi with head trauma.

5. David Petraeus (USA)

David Petraus

After his military service, Petraeus, a four-star general and former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, had a promising future. Nearly a year into his new position as CIA director, FBI investigators knocked on his door. They wanted to know if he revealed any classified information with his biographer during his extramarital affair. Petraeus denied the allegation, but the affair caused him to lose his position in 2012. During the investigation, classified information was discovered at Petraeus’ residence. He pleaded guilty to mishandling classified materials last year. Similarly, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is confronting questions regarding her handling of government information on a private email server while she was secretary of state on the 2016 campaign trail.

6. Malaysia Development Berhad (Malaysia) 

1MDB logo

The 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, also known as the 1MDB scandal or simply 1MDB, refers to a corruption, bribery, and money laundering scheme in which the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was systematically embezzled, with assets being diverted around the world. Although it originated in Malaysia, the scandal’s global reach implicated institutions and individuals in politics, finance, and entertainment, and led to criminal investigations in several countries. The 1MDB scandal has been characterized as “one of the world’s greatest financial scandals” and was deemed the “largest kleptocracy case to date” by the United States Department of Justice in 2016.

In Malaysia, the revelations became a significant political scandal, sparking protests and backlash. Najib responded to the opening of multiple investigations in Malaysia by removing several of his critics from government positions, including his deputy Muhyyddin Yassin and attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail. The charges against Najib were ultimately dropped. Former ally and Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was among Najib’s critics. He presided over the Malaysian Citizens’ Declaration, which united political figures and other organizations in calling for Najib Razak’s resignation or removal. The Malaysian Conference of Rulers demanded an immediate investigation into the scandal, claiming that it was causing a crisis of confidence in the country.

7. Chen Shui-bian (Taiwan) 

Chen Shui-bian was elected president of Taiwan in 2000 and served in that capacity for eight years. Following allegations of insider trading, his son-in-law Chao Chien-ming resigned from the president’s political party, tarnishing his presidency. The scandal severely harmed the reputation of the Taiwanese president, and The China Post reported that his approval rating was a remarkably low 5.8%. After reaching rock bottom, he could take solace in the fact that there was nowhere to go but up.

Unfortunately, his difficulties were just beginning. His wife, son, and daughter-in-law were charged with embezzlement, misappropriation, and money laundering in 2008. Additionally, the president was implicated in the offense. In a single count against him, he was accused of transferring $20 million to multiple bank accounts using false identities. In the end, both he and his wife were fined more than $15 million and sentenced to life in prison, although their sentences have since been reduced to 20 years.

8. Anthony Weiner (United States)

Anthony Weiner

Possibly one of the most notorious politicians beset by scandals in recent memory. The congressman from New York was a rising figure within the Democratic Party. He was youthful, well-connected, and married to top Hillary Clinton confidante Huma Abedin. The problems began in 2011 when lewd photos of him appeared on his Twitter account. Later, it was discovered that the photographs were of him and that he had sent them to other women via sexting. Weiner resigned immediately.

In 2013, he attempted a comeback by running for mayor of New York City, but he lost the primary when it was disclosed that he had not only continued sexting other women, but that he had also done so during the congressional investigation into his actions.

In 2016, Huma divorced him after it was revealed that he was still sexting; one of the photos even included his small son. FBI investigators discovered Hillary Clinton-related emails on his laptop that had not previously been disclosed to congressional investigators, which hampered the Democratic presidential nominee in the final month of the 2016 presidential election.

The crimes or alleged wrongdoings of these politicians have all caught up with them in the end. They have ranged from pecuniary (as in the case of Bob McDonnell) to affairs (as in the case of John Edwards) to prostitutes (as in the case of David Vitter) to simply bizarre (as in the case of Anthony Weiner). 

9. Jacob Zuma Scandal (Africa)

Jacob Zuma

Once considered an anti-apartheid champion, former South African President Jacob Zuma’s nine-year presidency was marred by multiple scandals. His relationship with the Gupta business family was reportedly responsible for his rapid employment and firing of finance ministers, which resulted in a decline in South Africa’s credit rating. In February 2018, the president of South Africa resigned after the country’s highest court reinstated 783 corruption and fraud allegations against him in 2017.

10. Hilary Clinton (USA)

Hilary Clinton

On January 2009, while Clinton was undergoing Senate confirmation hearings prior to becoming secretary of state, Clinton’s advisers established the Clintonemail.com email domain. Throughout her tenure at State, Clinton exclusively used email addresses associated with that server for both work and personal correspondence, as opposed to using the government’s system for State Department communications and a personal account for personal matters. She paid Bryan Pagliano, a State Department employee and erstwhile campaign aide, to maintain her server outside of his official duties.

In March 2013, a hacker named Guccifer distributed a series of Clinton-related emails from former White House aide Sidney Blumenthal to Clinton. Blumenthal’s email address for her was HDR22@clintonemail.com. This was the first public disclosure of her personal email account, and it alerted journalists and legislators that Clinton was conducting official business on a covert account.

Clinton has stated that she declined a State Department email address and instead used accounts connected to a personal server at her residence in upstate New York because it was more convenient not to carry two handheld devices, one for work and the other for personal matters. This remains her story, despite the fact that she was subsequently observed carrying both a BlackBerry and an iPad and had a personal assistant available to carry her equipment.

The explanation that makes the most sense is that she declined the State Department email address so that Republican congressional investigators, conservative interest groups, and the media could not rummage through her soiled or clean laundry while she was running for president. This scandal caused her defeat in the 2016 US election.

In conclusion

As many people are aware, politics can be quite a corrupt business, resulting in some of the largest political scandals in human history. Due to the numerous benefits that come with public service, such as fame, power, money, and prestige, there are politicians who cannot resist corruption and greed. There are still individuals who have been falsely accused or whose claims have been exaggerated, but the scandal persists.

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