SEATTLE — Recent studies on the poor selling their political votes reveal a negative correlation between vote-buying and public health services. Considering this, the importance of foreign aid as an investment in stable democratic governments is illuminated.
The act of vote-buying and vote-selling is widespread throughout many developing nations, and it includes the direct exchange of “gifts” or money for political support. In a study done by openDemocracy in 2016, nine out of ten voters in Nigeria believed that vote buying happens either ‘all of the time’ or ‘most of the time.’ As politicians typically target impoverished communities, vote-buyers entice voters with money, food and cooking utensils.
While poverty often restricts the ability to focus on long-term perspectives, many struggling citizens see selling their vote as a way to provide short-term relief for themselves and their families, and don’t question the risks it poses to the stability and corruptibility of their nation.
The act of vote-buying creates a lack of reliability in the democratic process and enables corrupt leaders. A recent study conducted by Stuti Khemani, which focused on the electoral democracy in the Philippines, provides direct evidence that in those areas in which vote-buying is more prevalent, governments invest less money in pro-poor services.
As Stuti Khemani revealed her main finding, she stated, “In places where households report greater vote-buying, municipal government records show lower investment in basic health services for mothers and children (fewer health workers and health projects). And, quite strikingly, as a summary measure of weak public performance, a higher proportion of children are underweight.”
Khemani concludes that this negative correlation between vote buying and public health services can be viewed as reflecting the policy consequences of perverse politics, but remains hopeful that research of this kind can illustrate the purpose of public service, encourage others to become leaders and thereby raise the quality of politicians.
As Khemani reiterates the impact of supported governments on the empowerment and education of the people, it is beyond doubt that investing in the stability of other nations through foreign aid benefits not only those in nations where their votes are being manipulated, but all people worldwide. By helping those impoverished, parents will no longer need to sell their votes to corrupted politicians in order to provide basic need for their children.
While developing nations have the potential to either harvest enemies or an educated public, it is in the national security interests of all countries to promote the strengthening of a public which is empowered to stand against vote-buying, and instead support the power of true democracy.
– Kendra Richardson