During the party nominations for the forthcoming the 2022 General Election, the use of money to win the ticket was pervasive while complaints of bribery trailed the results. Some of the losers claimed that their opponents were openly bribing voters to vote for them.
Vote buying is not exclusive to Kenya with Afrobarometer data showing more than a quarter of the population engaged in it in 2003-2014. Studies show it is common in Africa.
Kenya has witnessed a high rate of money politics and vote buying — which demonstrates that our politics is increasingly becoming for those with financial muscle. As Charles P. Sohner puts it, “money has been made to become the mother’s milk of politics, which the political gladiators must drink to remain in business.”
With the culture, the electoral process is compromised, resulting in elections not being free and fair. The votes are ‘sold to the highest bidder’. Gift giving, especially cash handouts, is central to political campaigning. Many attend political rallies in the hope of receiving money. Handouts convey information about electoral viability. For instance, they are used to mobilise large crowds to sway voters’ perception.
Chirinos, in his dissertation “Campaign clientelism and the importance of numbers: An informational theory”, argues that large rallies can help to attract financial contributions from donors. Candidates thus buy the political participation of potential voters at campaign events to convey information to onlookers about their electoral viability.
Campaign finance demands can increase incentives to engage in corruption or, worse, serve as moral justification for it. Political aspirants are forced to amass wealth, often through dubious means, so they can have money to give to the voters.
Most Kenyans know vote buying violates democratic norms and is corruption. But widespread poverty creates a demand for gifts to meet basic needs. But the negative impact of money politics and vote buying, which “recycles corrupt and depraved politicians”, is that it undermines graft eradication efforts and becomes a source of political corruption.
An electoral winner who buys their ‘victory’ is more likely to engage in corrupt activities — to recover the costs of vote buying and also secure enough resources for re-election.
Benjamin Nyblade and Steven Reed postulate as the potential relationship between cheating (vote buying) and looting (political corruption) that “great opportunities to loot create greater incentives to cheat and opportunities to cheat allow greater opportunities to loot”.
Research shows specific directed voter education can be highly effective in changing voters’ electoral behaviour. One may not easily convince poverty-ridden voters not to accept cash before the election but can persuasively argue in favour of money-free voting decisions (‘voting in conscience’).
Courtesy of Oscar Ochieng