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Vote Buying Seen Thriving in Russia Because Particularly Pensioners Like It
Svobodnaya Pressa
Friday, August 31, 2012


Article by Dmitriy Ivanov: “Democracy in Exchange for Potatoes. Voters` Votes Are Being Bought and Sold Throughout the Country”

“Oh, Mikhalych! Are you running for deputy? Well, give me three sacks of potatoes and I will vote for you!”

It sounds like a leg-pull. But this was precisely how -- almost verbatim -- a resident of the city of Lermontov, where elections for City Council deputy were held in June, suggested to one of the candidates as the way to buy his vote. The candidates` main pre-election campaigning weapon in this small town was not communication with the voters or the distribution of leaflets and campaign material but garden-variety bribery. People were corrupted with “gifts” from groupings eager for power. And this kind of situation is typical not only of Lermontov, whose residents are themselves already extorting “bonuses” from candidates. Throughout Russia elections have long since involved more than just campaigning and propaganda. On top of administrative leverage, of which everybody is sick and tired, the expression of the people`s will is achieved by some citizens buying other citizens`s cheap conscience.

Nonexistent “revolution” in irradiated city

In February this year the small city of Lermontov, which is five kilometers from Pyatigorsk in Stavropol Kray, was on the verge of being christened the next cradle of the next “revolution.”

Virtually nobody delved into the details of what was happening in Lermontov. Former City Mayor Aleksandr Dunayev and his associates staged a hunger strike and caused a fuss in the central media, angered that they had been disqualified from the election race or not registered at all for various reasons.

As a result the elections in Lermontov were canceled. And all the Stavropol Kray Administration`s efforts aimed at removing the unacceptable Dunayev and his people collapsed.

What price democratic values?

A completely different situation developed ahead of the next set of elections scheduled for 17 June. During the intervening period the kray governor had been successfully replaced (Valeriy Gayevskiy “left” in a hurry “of his own volition”) and the kray`s attitude toward the elections in Lermontov could be expressed in a few words as follows: “Let them choose for themselves; the main thing is that there should be a bit less of a stink.” So the Electoral Commission registered everybody en masse, despite numerous violations. And it was after that that the most interesting thing began: Having discovered that they could do whatever they liked, the groupings that had nominated their candidates started operating in the most cynical manner, absolutely spitting on the law. Specifically that meant directly, blatantly, and openly getting involved in bribing voters.

And here we see surfacing a phenomenon of present-day Russian society that neither people from Bolotnaya Square nor people “from the Internet” understand: Voters are happy to be bought! People happily and greedily accepted “gifts” from candidates. Moreover, they themselves asked for material benefits! Some people asked for repairs to be carried out, some asked for their balcony to be glazed, and some asked directly for “material assistance.” Thus, one woman even wrote a letter to a candidate deputy asking him to organize a trip to a neighboring region for a group of children. The candidate was promised “support” on voting day in exchange.

Generally during the election campaign the small town was seething, as the saying goes, with turbulent activity initiated by the candidate deputies and their teams. First in one place, then another, new children`s playgrounds were installed (probably the most costly item), roofs were repaired, handrails were painted, benches and flowerpots were installed, old trees were cut down.... In brief, every possible attempt was made to “win” the voters` trust. There were not even many printed campaign leaflets and newspapers on this occasion: After February the candidates` campai gn staffs decided to rely specifically on “enticing” the city`s residents with the aid of material benefits.

One day, immediately after the end of the workday, a kind of “landing party” of campaigners descended on a number of districts and went from house to house with packages. The packages contain so-called “food baskets,” which were presented to citizens on behalf of certain candidates. “This is a widespread method and, if the food baskets gets to the requisite recipients -- primarily not very affluent pensioners -- the result exceeds all expectations,” political analyst Nikolay T. told Svobodnaya pressa. “Thus, for example, after a skillful `distribution drive` during one campaign in Stavropol Kray our candidate`s rating improved from 15 to 60 percent, and within only two weeks.”

Toward the end of the campaign the candidates stopped being afraid of anything at all. Thus, one grouping decided to obtain voters` votes through their children. Horse-riding outings were organized, to which people were invited with the aid of leaflets on behalf of a certain given candidate. Do we have to tell you that the “stable owner`s” rating (and subsequently his election showing too) simply soared.... It is amusing to note that, in response to the horse-riding outings another campaign staff took children and their parents to a dolphinarium in Kislovodsk. The residents of Lermontov will clearly remember such generous elections for a long time.

The Electoral Commission`s response to the instances of bribery of voters was indicative. As Sergey Petrov, a former nonvoting member of the Commission, told Svobodnaya pressa, the Commission simply turned a blind eye to the illegal actions. “When we yet again complained about instances of now totally transparent bribery the Commission chairman`s response would be: “Well, they will at least do something useful for residents during election time,” Petrov said. “On the one hand you can even understand such a viewpoint in human terms. But as regards the legality of this statement..., it is totally outrageous.”

How many grams should ballot papers weigh?

Votes are bought right across Russia, from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad. Admittedly the latter cities are distinguished by an enhanced level of protest in society and are kind of exceptions to the rule. Whereas in other centers of population -- from villages to cities with populations running into millions -- political strategists find the most diverse ways to exchange various material benefits for ballot papers with checkmarks placed in the right boxes.

The methodology differs from city to city, including because of its scale, Aleksey R., a political strategist who was involved in elections in the 2000s, says. “For example, the following method is widespread in rural communities and villages: During the campaigning period a mobile medical center arrives at which citizens are seen for no charge by several doctors -- a therapist, a surgeon, a gynecologist,” Aleksey says. “At the same time -- depending on the degree of brazenness -- either the `requisite` candidate stands next to the medical center or the medical center itself is plastered with campaigning material.”

Yet another method which is de facto bribery involves the organization of concerts and festivals ahead of elections. This works particularly effectively if the PR professionals bring in performers that the target audience likes. These are mainly half-forgotten Soviet-era bands who were at the peak of their popularity in the 1980s.

Nor do political strategists shrink from exploiting the defects and ailments of society to achieve their goals. “It sometimes happens that local alcoholics and marginals with a passport (entitling them to vote) are routinely bought a bottle or two of vodka,” political strategist Ilya A. told Svobodnaya pressa. He also mentioned one type of di rect bribery -- “pyramid schemes.” “It is just like Mavrodi (convicted fraudster who founded the MMM Pozni pyramid scheme): One person is bought and is given 1,000 rubles, for example. If he recruits somebody else who is prepared to sell himself the second person also gets 1,000 rubles while the former gets another 200. And so on,” the PR professional said.

The mentality of “vote sellers”

But bribery affects voters in different ways, political strategists questioned by Svobodnaya pressa`s correspondent note.

“In so-called `protest` cities like Vladivostok, Irkutsk, or Kaliningrad, attempts to bribe voters may specifically meet with a rebuff, up to and including physical violence,” Aleksey R. says. “People in such cities have too much animosity toward the regime and all its manifestations.”

Yet another typical form of behavior involves “spiting the boss,” the political strategist continues. “This mainly applies to citizens employed in the manufacturing sector whose bosses try in every way to push them toward voting for the `correct` candidate, Aleksey R. says. “In this case a worker may even smilingly accept a `gift` and then vote as a matter of principle for anybody at all except for the candidate specified by the leadership.”

Meanwhile, PR professionals note, young people are almost never a target for bribery: Young people of up to 30 years of age, and even older, virtually do not vote and so it transpires that there is nothing to buy from them.”

Incidentally, campaign materials urging citizens not to vote are distributed in almost every campaign. It sometimes happens that the material is presented in the form of an instruction: “Take the money (or something else) but vote for anybody you like apart from the candidate who is trying to buy you.” The question that arises is: Why then is bribery employed on such a massive scale anyway?

“The entire point is that in our country it is mainly pensioners who go to vote -- people who lived a considerable proportion of their lives under the Soviet Union,” Aleksey R. explains. “They retain in their minds the principle of responsibility to their superiors: That is to say, if you have accepted money or some kind of food basket it is not bribery; it is your superior counting on you. You cannot let him down.”

(Description of Source: Moscow Svobodnaya Pressa in Russian -- Independent sociopolitical news website founded by Igor Beda`s “autonomous” noncommercial organization Internet Pressa; edited by opposition writers Sergey Shargunov and Zakhar Prilepin; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Kuwait: Former MP Says Next Phase `Substantial,` Warns Against Vote-Buyers
Arab Times
Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Unattributed report: “Do You Have Fish? Code Used for Vote Buying”

Kuwaitis revolted because they were driven by a corrupt government and extremely corrupt lawmakers, and not because they were hungry. Moreover, the word `leave` -- as observed in the Arab Spring, became a reality here in Kuwait with the toppling of the former government, reports Al-Rai daily.

The daily quoting former MP Musallam Al-Barrak added the next phase will be substantial in the history of Kuwait, and denounced tagging of the recent incident at the Parliament building as “Black Wednesday,” stressing it was a Wednesday of honor and dignity and “I was proud leading the youth and students with clean hands.”

According to the former MP, those who feel that citizens must revolt against their rulers only if they starve are reminded that Kuwait`s situation is different. He stressed that incidents taking place in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria during the Arab Spring was due to oppression the citizens suffered at the hands of their rulers who deprived them of basic needs, and shared the national wealth with intelligence systems and tycoons.

However, in Kuwait, national unity and patriotism have been harmed by the government spreading hatred and discrimination among various groups in the society through the corrupt media, he added, maintaining the so-called Black Wednesday was a great day of honor. It`s only shameful that we failed to make a Parliament which Kuwaitis really deserve, and we couldn`t stop the bribe-takers who have denounced and sold the country from winning seats in the Abdullah Al-Salem Hall.

On the decision to resort to the streets if the lawmakers involved in the multimillion deposits scandal are re-elected to the Parliament, Al-Barrak noted their coming back will be impossible unless laws are violated or misapplied.

He added the incoming government and its head must work hard to regain the trust of citizens. He also said votes are being bought at the moment and the code is “Do you have fish?,” urging the government must control this negative phenomenon.

In a related incident, former MP Ali Al-Deqbasi said he was not selected as the speaker of Arab Parliament for being a `genius,` as some individuals imagine, but because he comes from Kuwait where the ceiling of freedom is high with democracy.

Al-Deqbasi noted that some people have tried to incite chaos among Kuwaitis through the corrupt media, and that the bribe takers are not only found inside the Parliament. It`s important to examine our history in detail, he said, noting Kuwaitis had voted the revered Ahmad Al-Khateeb into the Parliament about fifty years ago because they are no racists. “The youth is our hope in the next phase since they were able to confront corruption, particularly the multimillion deposits scam, while the former Parliament is disabled,” he said.

Meanwhile, candidate from the Fourth Constituency Dr Obaid Al-Wasmi says the Constitution does not generate political defect. However, the phenomenon is rooted in the cultural awareness of Kuwaitis.

In other developments, several academics and political activists consider the primaries as heinous crime, which is not the right path to selecting good lawmakers for the nation.

(Description of Source: Kuwait Arab Times Online in English -- Website of large-circulation independent daily; sister publication of liberal, anti-Islamist newspaper Al-Siyasah; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Vote-buying Scandal Also Rocks Opposition
By Park Si-soo
The Korea Times Online
Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The cash-for-votes scandal that is rocking the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) has spilled over into the main opposition camp, putting the morality of contenders for the leadership of the Democratic United Party (DUP) into question.

Some contenders, who claim they were clean, are calling for a thorough investigation into the scandal to weed out an “obsolete form of electioneering.”

The suspicion flared up Monday when a DUP official overseeing the party`s preparation for its upcoming national convention told a media outlet that a supporter of one of the nine contenders doled out cash in envelopes to eligible voters in a move to “buy” the leadership post. All contenders have vehemently denied their involvement.

Last month, the newly created party selected a former prime minister and eight other candidates to run in a new leadership race set for Jan. 15.

Nearly 800,000 DUP members will cast ballots online and offline in the event to select a leader who will map out the party`s strategy for the April 11 parliamentary elections, largely viewed as a litmus test for public sentiment ahead of the December presidential poll.

The official said each envelope contained between 500,000 won to 5 million won ($430-$4,300) and many were delivered over a dinner to some regional heads of the party ahead of a preliminary race on Dec. 26.

The whistle-blower didn`t identify who but the revelation immediately came as a great embarrassment to the nine contenders and their party.

The DUP reacted swiftly.

“If any contender is confirmed to have been involved in any illegal electioneering, we will disqualify the person and seek legal measures,” spokesman Oh Jong-sik said hours after the scandal surfaced. The party launched a fact-finding team and pledged to investigate the case thoroughly.

Three contenders, with a relatively weak support base, put their weight behind the probe, saying in a joint statement that they will join forces to eliminate the practice. They underscored they had nothing to do with the scandal.

Cash in envelopes have been a favorite tool for bribery in the country, where graft scandals involving influential politicians and businessmen remain an almost annual event.

“This scandal came as a great embarrassment,” Lee Hak-young, Moon Sung-keun and Park Yong-jin said in a joint statement. “We take it for granted that the party has launched a fact-finding team to unearth the truth.”

They pledged that they will “dig out the truth with no-holds-barred” if they succeed in landing in the leadership circle through the convention.

Oh said Tuesday that no hard evidence backing the suspicion had been found yet, adding that the fact-finding team will work hard to conclude whether it was true.

The latest scandal comes at a time when the DUP`s biggest rival, the GNP, is already reeling from a separate vote-buying scandal implicating its former leader Pak Hu`i-t`ae (Park Hee-tae), who currently serves as National Assembly speaker. Park denies the allegation.

The prosecution has started investigating the case at the request of the GNP.

(Description of Source: Seoul The Korea Times Online in English -- Website of The Korea Times, an independent and moderate English-language daily published by its sister daily Hanguk Ilbo from which it often draws articles and translates into English for publication; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Sao Tome and Principe: Vote Buying May Have Impacted Election Result
Tela Non
Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Unattributed Report: “`Vote Buying` at Polls May Have Impacted Result of Sunday`s Election”

Telanon found out that on 15 July the Sao Tomean money market ran out of `dobras.` This was allegedly because one of the 17 July election candidates` sponsors made two withdrawals of millions of `dobras` that caused the commercial banks to run out of this currency. In this country, where it is difficult to keep a secret, especially when it has to do with transactions carried out at public or private institutions, Telanon found out that on the eve of the day for reflecting on the presidential elections, that is, on 15 July, one of the candidates` sponsors ordered a commercial bank to withdraw $2 million in `dobras.`

The same sponsor ordered another commercial bank to do the same thing, to withdraw $500,000 also converted into `dobras.` According to a reliable source of Telanon`s, in total the candidate was able to inject more than 40 billion `dobras` into a last effort on 16 July, an action that is being perpetrated in Sao Tome and Principe to buy people`s consciences, called `AT THE POLL.`

Besides the `BANHO` (vote buying) that occurs before the campaign and carries on for the 15 days of the campaign, those planning to buy people`s consciences, who have a great deal of experience in this area, which dates back to 1991, end up carrying out the final conscience-buying attack on the evening of the day of refection and on until the close of voting the following evening. Perhaps because of this, the sponsor of one of the candidates caused the money market to run out of `dobras` on 15 July, when he withdrew a total of $2.5 million from two Sao Tomean commercial banks. The amount may have greatly helped to increase the votes of the candidate who benefitted from such an injection of cash, as those working for the abovementioned candidate did not sleep all of Saturday night, buying votes door to door. Also on election day, 17 July, those working to buy people`s consciences were very busy. Everything indicates that in the runoff election the banks may run out of `dobras` again, especially on the eve of the day of refection.

(Description of Source: Sao Tome Tela Non in Portuguese -- Privately-operated digital newspaper; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Thai Article: Vote-Buying Politicians Deserve More Severe Punishment
Bangkok Post Online
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Commentary by Pichai Chuensuksawadi: “Winning The Popularity Contest Always Comes at A Cost”

Vote-buying is a sad reality of every election. Politicians publicly condemn it and urge voters not to sell their votes. But each time before people line up for the ballot, funds flow furiously, the week, if not the night, before depending on the province or constituency. Once again as we head down the final stretch to elections, this plague and scourge of our political process is certain to rear its ugly head.

Prior to each election, political parties commission private polls to gauge their party`s popularity as well as those of potential candidates. They compare the party and candidates` rating with those of their nearest rival and competitor. These polls are conducted intermittently throughout the campaign, in particular by more prominent and well-financed parties. The objective is to allow parties and candidates to adjust their campaigns, counter moods and trends by their opponents, overcome weaknesses.

Without doubt key political parties have conducted polls of some sort. More recently, for example, both Puea Thai and the Democrats have commissioned polls in 18-20 hotly contested provinces. These are provinces in the North and Northeast in which support could go either way. In the past, according to pollsters, parties would be satisfied if the trends indicated that their party or candidate was ahead by say 20% and leading comfortably in the popularity contest. In the upcoming election, however, this does not seem to be enough.

One interesting trend that has emerged is that parties are demanding more from pollsters. They are asking for more detail. For instance they want to know which villages are against them in hotly-contested constituencies and why. “They even want to know which household is against them,” one pollster confided recently. Another new development is that parties are asking pollsters to assess the popularity of their canvassers -- something that has never been done before. They want to know what qualities in canvassers are attractive to voters. One party has even asked for polls to be conducted on monks.

What does this all mean? Armed with more detailed information, I fear that vote-buying will be worse than ever. This is a reflection of what is at stake in this year`s election. But what`s worse is that we continue to allow this practice to continue and really have not taken any serious or definitive action to kill this practice. I don`t blame the voters, especially voters upcountry. We have ourselves to blame. The measures, procedures and penalties to curb this political disease are as weak and soft as spaghetti.

The Election Commission, set up under the 1997 charter, is empowered to hand out a red card to any candidate whom it deems has violated the electoral law or cheated. And this includes vote-buying. If the commission hands out a red card before election results are announced, that candidate loses his or her political rights for just one year. The commission then files a civil suit to reclaim the costs of holding a by-election in which the candidate is supposed to pay. In most cases, the process of appeal takes time and the candidate more often than not negotiates payment terms such as interest payments or even payment by instalments.

If one year has passed (the candidate is now an MP) and the commission decides to proceed with the case, it must file the case with the Supreme Court`s Election Division. In this situation, the process is tougher as far as rules of evidence are concerned. The court may decide that the commission does not have sufficient evidence and dismiss the case. If the court decides in favour of the commission, the MP loses his or her political rights for five years while the commission then proceeds to extract the costs for elections via the civil court judicial process.

One key problem in cases of vote-buying or election fraud is evidence. As far as vote-buying is concerned, there are virtually no receipts to speak of. I can only recall one case decades ago when a reporter by chance took a sheet of paper with a list of monies paid to voters from the desk of one MP running for re-election while he wasn`t looking. The document had the candidate`s signature on it which matched his signature in Parliament. All hell broke loose when a reproduction of the document was published. But in the end, because there was no EC at that time -- just the Interior Ministry which was responsible for elections -- the case simply disappeared.

But for a while now we have an Election Commission with considerable responsibility to ensure that the election process is fair and transparent. Following the December 2007 elections, the EC, in January of 2008, handed out 18 yellow cards and seven red cards. One thing the commission should be required to do is report each year to Parliament and the public an update on all red card cases and the status of their civil lawsuits.

But most important of all, we need to make cheats pay, and pay dearly. The reality is that once allegations of fraud or vote-buying are lodged by candidates or the public and the EC investigates, lobbying starts to turn a red card verdict into a yellow card verdict which means a re-run in that constituency. This is to be expected in all matters political. Cheats will be cheats and people who have become accustomed to buying their way into positions of power and influence will continue to adopt such tactics.

If we are going to make any headway whatsoever in tackling this scourge, then the process needs to be clear cut and the penalties simple and straightforward. The one year or five year political ban should go out the window altogether and in its place should be one rule and one rule only -- a lifetime ban from contesting any elected public office or appointment to any government office or agency in which the public interest is at stake. Even now politicians kick and scream over a five-year ban. To them we should say stiff cheese and be gone. If you cheat then be prepared to suffer the consequences. Recent opinion polls indicate that many people remain undecided as to which party they will support in the upcoming elections.

For me, I will vote for any political party that pushes for laws or measures that make election cheats really pay and suffer. But I won`t vote for that party in this upcoming election -- only after they have successfully implemented the change in the electoral process.

And that means in the following elections -- whenever that will be.

(Description of Source: Bangkok Bangkok Post Online in English -- Website of a daily newspaper widely read by the foreign community in Thailand; provides good coverage on Indochina. Audited hardcopy circulation of 83,000 as of 2009. URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.





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