A common utterance “money talks” is sometimes used also related to elections. One could suppose that if voting matters the parties or candidates are investing more to win elections. Normal marketing is sometimes not guaranteeing enough votes so in many societies more crude means are used such as election fraud/rigging, non-transparent and illegal political campaign and party financing. A simple vote buying maybe tells most about importance of elections. I wonder if there exists in any EU member state a barometer showing current price level of votes in EP elections, not only the official campaign costs but the unofficial price per vote.
Buying a polling station or enough of them could be one possibility which from my opinion is complicated to implement in EP elections. I was quite surprised while reading from BNP pages that some party really thinks this to be possible. A quote:
All British National Party members and supporters have been urged to be on the lookout for polling station fraud committed by corrupt officials who may seek to cast ghost votes in the election on June 4th, party leader Nick Griffin has announced. “We have received information that certain corrupt officials at some polling stations have devised a plan whereby they intend to vote on other people’s behalf towards the end of polling day,” Mr Griffin said. “Apparently the plan is to wait until late on polling day, and then to start crossing off names of people on the electoral register who have not yet voted and then voting on their behalf,” Mr Griffin said.
If buying votes via election organisation is difficult there is always possibility to buy them directly from electorate. In Finland there is a tradition to transport free people in rural areas from their home to polling station and maybe give them a cup of coffee and expect that they may vote “right way”; otherwise these voters would maybe stay home. Of course one can select the persons to which give free transport but it does not guarantee the “right” vote. During this EP elections I have impression that free transport services are lower level than before indicating the unimportance of coming election.
More effective way is to bay vote with money. In Finland I have not heard this to been done but in Balkans situation is a bit different or what to think about following quote from Bulgaria April 2, 2009:
Bulgarian MPs have passed a new set of punishments for anyone found to be involved in ‘vote buying’ after the second reading of a new bill Thursday. Bulgarian MPs have passed a new set of punishments for anyone found to be involved in ‘vote buying’ after the second reading of a new bill Thursday. Anyone found to be involved in vote rigging or buying will now receive a jail term of 1-3 years and a fine of between BGN 1 000 and BGN 10 000. This new law includes anyone found threatening or conning voters during local or national elections. For more serious offences judges will be able to give a jail term of up to 6 years and a fine of up to BGN 20 000. The bill was passed soon after Bulgaria’s Chief Prosecutor, Boris Velchev, called on all political parties to slam vote buying practices. “Vote buying is nothing new but it has recently entered court-rooms,” Velchev stated. He expressed concerns that this practice may cast a shadow over the upcoming general and EP elections in the summer.
Modern technology helps to monitor that buyer gets what (s)he is paying for. E.g. the voter takes a picture with mobile phone about voting slip, shows it to payer and gets money. In Balkans I have heard the sum vary between 5 to 50 euro per vote; I wonder what’s the value during these EP elections.
Vote buying is one kind of political corruption – misuse of political power for private gain for preserving or strengthening power, for personal enrichment or both. A candidate can use also indirect means get power for benefits like cronyism, clientelism, nepotism, patronage, insider trading, speed money, embezzlement or abuse of public property. These indirect ways are hard to proof.
For me it would be interesting to get feedback about different variations of vote buying during this EP elections – variations which are outside normal marketing, legal, sometimes even transparent campaigns. Even in overall this EP elections seems to have low market value there maybe are candidates who want to collect their million from Brussels and are using unusual means to get it. Learning these bad practices could help to improve countermeasures for next next EP quality in future.