Vote buying or bartering is a significant threat to democracy, elections, and good governance. It interferes with the political right to vote envisioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In parts of the world, it is enshrined in most countries’ constitutions that a citizen who attained the age of eighteen years is entitled to register as a voter, which strongly suggests their voting rights, as many believe.
Vote buying or vote trade involves exchanging money, gifts, or food items with the electorate’s votes. Some voters are exploited to sell their votes to political candidates or parties to win elections.
Votes evoke elections and democracy, and when citizens willingly vote for good leaders of their choice or without any interference, it guarantees good governance, development, and well-being. There is no doubt to say that vote buying is an act that impedes free and fair elections and deforms democracy. The menace of vote buying in election seasons has become a new normal in most countries.
WHY VOTERS ENGAGE IN THE ACT OF VOTE TRADE
One reason voters sell their votes to political candidates or parties is electoral corruption in the system. Voters know that elections are always rigged by powerful politicians, especially those in power. So even if voters want to support good candidates of their choice, their wishes and efforts will be impeded by greedy and corrupt politicians who misuse power to deny them their rights and wishes. Such politicians use all kinds of electoral manipulations to win elections or stay in control to the detriment of the masses. These illegal acts interfere with the right to vote among citizens. Many voters may feel their efforts are frustrated, and their votes to support their candidates do not count because elections are manipulated to serve the interest of corrupt politicians who did not win the elections. Consequently, some voters resort to selling their rights in exchange for money or food items rather than wasting their votes on candidates that would not reasonably be elected.
Another reason is the lack of freedom from poverty and hunger and the illiteracy of voters in some parts of African countries. Some voters live below the poverty line, resulting from artificial poverty created or a poverty trap set by corrupt politicians to exploit electorates. Because of lack, voters would trade their votes for just a few food items to keep the soul and body together. Poverty and illiteracy of poor citizens are always capitalized on or used as weapons against citizens by corrupt politicians to rob citizens of their rights.
Vote buying is a form of electoral corruption that impedes free and fair elections and violates voters’ rights to choose candidates of their choice. To contain the menace of the vote trade, religious institutions, individuals, and civil society groups need to educate and enlighten society on the dangers of the vote trade on citizens and their future.