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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.

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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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