Most Solomon Islanders 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 so because of corruption infiltrating our electoral system.
Vote buying is one such act that candidates (and their agents) practice which has bred a general perception of supporters/voters sense of ‘being entitled” – that an MP will only help his/her supporters/voters compared to the rest of the constituents. The fact that some MPs are actually encouraging and practicing this is very concerning.
We as citizens must realize that our members of parliament are voted into parliament to represent the constituency (not his/her voters and supporters alone).
As the country is preparing for another National General Election (NGE), the issue of vote buying is again on the rise. It is practiced openly under the guise of gifts and custom.
Sadly vote buying on Devil’s Night (commonly referred to the night before election) has now become a common aspect of elections in the country that people even speak openly about it without remorse.
Time and again tales are told about how agents work tirelessly during the night to dish out money and gifts to influence voters. Some candidates use respected community and church leaders to influence people’s votes.
Such is the “norm” of election bribery being accepted in the country that people even joke about having their ballot for sale because ‘this would be the only time I will gain something from this candidate because if he/she wins, he/she will ignore us for the next 4 years.”
This is not right, unfortunately it has become our reality and will continue to be so if we continue to accept vote buying as ‘okay’. Voting for someone merely because he/she gave you a bag of rice or some money on ‘devils night’ or any other day for that matter must not be accepted.
Our vote is worth more, it is worth better essential services, better roads, better schools, inclusive leadership and so forth – not just a bag of rice on devils night.
It is time that citizens and so-called leaders make decisions based on the well-being of the country and the people. Corruption in the country is rife, and the practice of vote buying (among others) undermines having a fair and clean election.
Citizens need to realize that once we accept vote buying as ‘normal’ and ‘okay’ we are accepting bribery, fraud and dishonesty. Our country has experienced huge setbacks because of corruption. Citizens must not sit back and accept vote buying as ‘life as usual’.
It is time that we the citizens must be vigilant and report any such vote buying activities (if known).Vote buying and bribery is illegal – citizens must speak up, say something when you see something.
As we prepare to go to the polls either on 2023 or 2024, we must remind ourselves as voters to vote wisely. Vote for a good leader, someone who has a vision for his/her constituents and constituency and the nation as a whole. Remember that election bribery is an offence.
Exercise your rights as a citizen by voting without undue influence, make your vote count. Voting for someone merely as an act of reciprocity or feeling obliged after receiving gifts and/or some form of assistance is not the right way of exercising your rights.
Unless we the citizens act now and do something about rolling back corruption in the country, we will continue to suffer its effect. Corruption costs lives by denying people access to essential services like proper health centers/lack of medicines. It allows our natural resources to be stripped and harvested unsustainably. It undermines development in the country. And who suffers from all these effects – citizens (you& I).
Candidates (and their agents) also have a duty (to the people he/she pledges to represent) and must make this important moral choice not to practice vote buying.
Questions voters should ask ourselves as we approach the next National General Election, should we accept corruption to keep thriving, what type of a country do I want to live in and what type of leader should we vest our power in to represent us in Parliament.
BY ELLIOT DAWEA
Disclaimer; these are my views as a private citizen and does not necessarily reflect my Employer