The Melanesian culture of reciprocity works well in an extended family or small community but it is much more difficult with a big group such as a constituency or nation.
People do not know each other personally and the politician may be tempted to relate only with those who support him.
Also, it will take more and more money. Money that should be used to govern the country and provide general social services will be diverted to keeping this reciprocity going.
If the wealth of the country generally could come up, this will be less of a problem.
Now constituents are desperate for wealth and money so they see their vote as a way to get wealth through this reciprocity. It makes for a bad government.
Election is just around the corner and we must put an end to this culture particularly if it’s base on political vested interest of candidates to win in elections.
Indulging into such culture during political campaign period and Election time is a mockery to a nation professes to be Christian nation.
“My advice to voters, elect someone who has something to offer to the nation, not just to you”
Time has now arrived that we must adhere to Christian principles and values; hence, voters must shun corruption practice in the coming election.
Strictly speaking, in the context of Melanesian politics it simply means “No money no vote” or offering gifts for voters benefit.
No one can deny some candidates were committed to decoy voters to vote for him/her into Parliamentary democracy leadership.
As a matter of fact, this culture is begin and becoming a chronic practice in the 21st century during the top gear of the campaign period and night before elections, which the media coined as the “Devils night”.
But after we attain our political independence from British colonization our former politicians were surprised “Vote Buying” is not practice by our politicians.
Intending candidates, current MPs and voters must properly drill into our brain the meaning of the National Parliament Electoral Provisions Act which clearly stated buying votes is illegal.
Under Section 70 of the National Parliament Electoral Provisions Act [Cap 87] stipulates that “any person, who is guilty of bribery, treating or undue influence shall be guilty of a corrupt practice…”
And section 71, section 72 and section 73 of the said Act outlines the actions by intended candidate, current members and voters that amount to bribery, treating and undue influence respectively.
For instance, according to section 71 of the Act a Candidate is guilty of bribery (and therefore is guilty of corruption) if by “himself or by any person on his behalf gives, lends, or agrees to give or lend, or offers, promises or promises to procure or to endeavor to procure, any money or valuable consideration to or for any elector…to induce a voter to vote for him”.
“Fundamentally, we must obey existing laws and not sway by candidates evil strategies”
I cannot advise you on this decision, other than to tell you that, if you do buy votes, quite a few of the people who take your money will still not vote for you, and you will have wasted your money. Also, remember that vote buying is illegal.
Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands politics just the same, particularly intending candidates must have lucrative cash with their fingertips to lure voters.
Reciprocity is gift giving, assisting in marriage ceremonies, school fees, and individual assistance for capital start up in business, hence for them to vote for that candidate.
Assisting others is part of our culture but when politics creeps in is not right as far as electoral commission act is concern.
This kind of culture is a big problem in ever strata of our socities. I believe inclusive responsibility is imperative to stop this dirty practice not pass on to our future generations.
Most Solomon Islands voters vote for the candidate who they think will be most likely to help them personally, or help their family (and maybe help their community).
For most voters national politics and policy are not something they think much about when they vote.
This is also true in a lot of other countries; the way people vote in Solomon Islands is quite common.
Therefore, to win people’s support you need to convince them you will be likely to help. Doing this needs more than just promises. Voters hear promises all the time.
Generally voters will be more likely to believe you will help if: You have helped them in the past.
Normally to gain voters’ trust you need to have helped quite a lot over a long period of time (buying votes on Devil’s Night, or just giving something in the campaign, is usually not enough.)
If you have strong wantok ties with them. Most Solomon Islanders receive the most help in their lives from relatives.
So it is natural that they assume candidates who are related to them will be more likely to help if they win. However, voters’ loyalty to relatives is not guaranteed.
If you are a relative and if you have not helped in the past, voters may still not vote for you. Sometimes, but not always, church ties can also help in a similar way to family ties.
Possibility for the candidate to win he/she must have the support of influential people from the voters’ family, church or community. Often these sorts of people can convince voters to vote for them.
In places where you do not have very many relatives, winning support from influential people in villages is usually very important.
However, winning this support is not easy and it is hard to know who you can trust.
Some candidates have complained about conmen: people who took money off them and who promised they would support them, but who then supported someone else.
Vote buying on Devil’s Night is very common in Solomon Islands elections. Whether you buy votes or not is an important moral choice you will need to make.
Chances for candidates of winning will be higher if you have strong connections to your constituency. It will be easier if you have strong networks (either church or wantoks).
It will also be easier if you have spent a good amount of time in your constituency in recent years helping people and learning very carefully who is influential in your constituency and who you can trust.
Question we should ask ourselves as we approach to the national election is what kind type of leaders we will vote to represent us in the Parliamentary democracy leadership?
By ELLIOT DAWEA
Divine Word University