A majority of Kenyans would not mind voting for political aspirants who splash money and promise them rewards during election campaigns.
Findings of a survey on voter bribery tendencies in the country reveal a deeply entrenched habit, with more than half of the respondents confessing that their choice of candidate is easily influenced when they are bribed.
At the centre of it are the voters who have no problem giving their votes in exchange for “something small”.
After all, it appears to be an ‘accepted tradition’ in Kenyan politics, the respondents argued, pointing to weak enforcement systems and political parties and institutions that appear to condone the practice.
The findings are contained in a report titled; Voter Bribery as an Election Malpractice in Kenya; A Survey Report Dec 2016, to be officially launched later this week.
The findings of the survey carried out by Interthoughts Consulting and commissioned by the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German political foundation, point to a high likelihood that voter bribery will still be witnessed at high levels in the 2017 General Election.
A political party
Out of the 514 respondents from the 10 counties surveyed between April and June, 2016, 56 per cent confessed to having ever received a bribe from a political party aspirant or candidate.
From each of the 10 counties — Nakuru, Bomet, Kiambu, Kisumu, Machakos, Meru, Kilifi, Migori, Trans-Nzoia and Kakamega — more than 50 per cent confessed that they would easily give their vote to the person who gave them something or promised to reward them.
Bomet County west of Nairobi, had the highest proportion of respondents who had ever received a bribe at 64.71 per cent followed by Kisumu, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kilifi, Trans Nzoia, Kiambu and Machakos while Migori had the lowest at 41.51 per cent.
Various forms of voter bribery were identified in the survey, ranging from frequent fundraisers (harambees) during the period preceding elections and during campaign periods to dishing out handouts to the voters.
It is also during this time that you will see aspirants jostling to pay school fees and hospital bills and even take care of funeral expenses, particularly to the voters who the politicians had probably avoided and kept off in the past.
Politicians also make promises of individual direct benefits in varying rewards, from jobs to tenders.
Give out clothes
They will also pay a sum of money for people who attend their political meetings in form of transport reimbursements and allowances and some will also give out clothes such as t-shirts and lessos (form of shawl) in the name of electoral material.
Some aspirants or candidates also pay for opinion polls, influencing the process and results of the same.
This is the first survey on voter bribery tendencies in the country, showing perceptions and challenges to address them.
Findings were based on debates and discussions that involved voters, aspirants, political parties and opinion leaders in the 10 counties visited. Questionnaires were also administered to 514 respondents.
There was a strong agreement that refusing to collect the bribe to vote was an individual responsibility, with Kisumu leading at 80 per cent followed by Kiambu at 73.81 per cent and Nakuru at 70 per cent.
Some of the respondents, however, said even though they had received bribes from aspirants for political offices and other elective seats, they may not necessarily vote for them.
Morals and ethics
The indication was that they would collect bribes but vote for persons of their choice, pointing to a society that is struggling with values, morals and ethics.
According to some of the respondents, they will collect the money for other reasons as long as the aspirants are in the business of dishing it out.
The survey points out that some of those receiving money may not even be registered voters or members of the aspirant’s party while others may be registered far away from the aspirants area, hence cannot vote for them.
Of interest is that there was a high level of awareness that voter bribery is an electoral malpractice and a form of corruption, hence a punishable crime.
On the other hand, however, respondents argue that precedence has been set in previous elections, and experience has shown that persons who engage in voter bribery have not been convicted.
Engage in corruption
Many respondents also felt that almost all the candidates seeking elective seats engage in corruption, hence their choices are limited.
In some cases, it is the citizens themselves who demand to be given something.
On the spot are political parties, aspirants and their agents who seem to be the drivers of the malpractice.
Many aspirants are moneyed and able to meet the electoral needs. High poverty and low income levels among citizens, especially youths who have no gainful employment were cited as some factors that encourage the malpractice.
But there is also legal instruments and policies and institutions which have failed to nib the problem in the bud, resulting in weak enforcement of existing laws, which leave culprits going Scot free.
Many Kenyans also have a strong mentality of money exchanging hands for votes, and this is based on experiences in previous elections held over the years.
But CMD warns that while people tend to choose those who have money thinking they are best placed to care of them, the aspirants may have corruptly obtained the money and so easily give it out.
They will, however, still recover the money corruptly, once elected, resulting in a cycle.
“It was clear to them that voter bribery influences how the people vote and results into people electing leaders who are evidently corrupt by having bribed the voters in the first place and hence likely to sustain their very nature of being corrupt even after being elected,” the report to be launched on Friday states.