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when politicians monitor how you respond to their handouts

24 May 2014

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Political scientists who question the efficacy of the exchange of goods for votes point in particular to the problem of monitoring: if a politician gives someone something in exchange for their vote in the era of secret ballots, how can that politician know the citizen actually voted for him?

A Malawian politician offers a great example of a workaround to this problem. From Thursday’s copy of The Nation, I bring you the story of MP candidate in Rumphi West Constituency, Jane Kabogodo Gondwe. Gondwe made a donation to a local health center (beds, mattresses, a drip stand, trolleys). Once she figured out she was losing the race for MP, she went back to the health center to take all of her donations back.

Gondwe gave a large donation, meant to benefit a group of people. Alternatively, she could have given small handouts to individual voters. Monitoring individual voters is hard. Keeping tabs on whether a larger group of people have supported you is much easier — and if they fail to hold up their end of the bargain (at least as you see it), you can just go and take your large donation back.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Beth Whitaker permalink
    26 May 2014 2:26 pm

    Reminds me of that great storyline in Achebe’s “A Man of the People” when the water pipes are taken away from a village when its people express support for an opposition candidate (later, when the village votes for the MP after all, just half of the pipes are returned!).

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