Vote buying getting more expensive

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The democratic “experiment” is getting much more mature in the Bahraini custom now. Bribing poor people with sacks of rice, sugar and some oil as has happened in the elections of 2002 and 2006 is no longer enough, according to Al-Wasat this morning. People now demand more for their votes, they upped their prices!

'I need three 2-tonne air conditioners, one split unit and one 1-tonne a/c for the store room'
لكن العرض والطلب قبيل العملية الانتخابية في تصاعد مستمر، فـ «فانوس علاء الدين» الذي يعمل قبيل العملية الانتخابية وينتهي بعد إغلاق صناديق الاقتراع سيكون عاملا مساعدا في الكثير من الدوائر للحصول على أصوات الكثير من الناخبين، وخصوصا أن هناك المئات من الأسر التي تعيش حالة الفقر الكبير. من جهة أخرى، قال مواطنون «أول مرة ندري ان صوتنا يسوى خيشة عيش وخيشة سكر لا وأبو أربعين كيلو بعد»، مشيرين إلى أن «بعض هؤلاء المترشحين يوزعون الرز والسكر من أجل الحصول على الأصوات وهذا شراء للأصوات».

Al-Wasat Newspaper 31 July 2010

But the supply and demand before the elections is ever increasing as “Aladdin’s lamp” which works from before the elections to the moment the ballots are closed will be an effective method in many electoral districts to gain more votes, especially that there are hundreds of families suffering from abject poverty. Further, some citizens said that “we realise that [in the first election] our vote was worth a 40kg sack of rice and another of sugar” indicated that “some candidates distribute rice and sugar in order for them to gain votes, this is a vote buying operation.”

But now, they’re wiser and maybe taking lead from the recent much maligned Chamber of Commerce elections in which some candidates allegedly bought traders’ votes for prices ranging from tens to hundreds of dinars – along with some probably unfulfilled promises – now voters know that they can get more, much more than what they have accepted in the recent past. Demands, according to the article above, range from air conditioners to fridges to other home utensils.

This is tragic. I’m not sure whether I should laugh of cry when I read articles like this. For a sacred duty to be reduced to this is probably indicative of the immaturity of the process, the abject mistrust people put into such democratic practices, or even worse complete disbelief and disenchantment in democracy.

While to an extent I can’t blame them, after all, the last 8 years were painful for the country with the only tangible results from this “experiment” being much more restrictions on personal freedoms and freedoms of speech, with no murderers and torturers being brought to justice but attempts to codify reconciliation were actively and vehemently opposed by some of those who are supposed to be representatives of the people. Essentially, what people have witnessed so far from this “experiment” is a degradation in their quality of life and an unchecked and increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

What has increased since the first elections is the amount of hot-air and the acceptance of further promises which everyone knows could never be fulfilled.

Oh, and another thing did change. A lot more people just won’t vote this time around. I would be very surprised if the turnout exceeds 60% this time…

1 Comment
  • OnlineShmonline
    31 July 2010

    Somehow, this sounds like a more expensive version of Singapore politics. Of course, in Singapore politics, those who can’t be bought usually end up getting accused of some made up act under the Internal Security Act and kept in detention for many years or until they sigh away their integrity and ability to hope.

    Is it the same in Bahrain?

They bloody well deserve it!