Ever since I have been in Ukraine, and undoubtedly before that, the buying of votes in local, regional and national elections has been the norm.
The same can be said for “protesters” at political rallies. A large proportion are paid to be there to swell the numbers for the on-looking media more often than not. The only exceptions to that I can remember since being here would be the “Orange Revolution” in 2004/5 and the Tax Code protests 2 years ago.
The buying of votes can take the form of physical cash or “charitable handouts” by political parties with goods, services and food. They all do it and I have personally experienced each party attempting to buy the vote of my wife.
She has also been offered money numerous times (and on occasion food and beverages as well – how civilised) to attend protests and demonstrations over the years – again by all political parties. ( The same can be said of every member of her family and most of her friends as well.)
Needless to say, the number of protesters or supporters at any political rally for any party as reported by the media should be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt if you want to consider who amongst any crowd has a genuine belief and desire to be there verses those who had nothing better to do and bolstered the numbers for UAH 50 to spend an hour or two stood around.
It is a charade that all Ukrainians, political parties and politicians, domestic media and commentators are well aware of.
Now there is nothing wrong with buying your crowd at a political rally in an effort to seem more popular than you truly are. It hurts nobody and hardly makes any direct contribution to the democratic process other than a possible indirect psychological effect on some watching any rally on television.
It does seem a rather sad and pathetic thing to do, but they all do it.
The issue with vote buying however is a far more serious issue, whether the vote is bought for cash or whether the vote is bought via “charitable acts or donations”.
Every election time “party people” tour the homes and apartments providing incentives to vote for their party. It can in fact become quite annoying at election time to have numerous strangers at your door trying to buy your loyalty without a policy worth mentioning amongst the lot of them.
This year, the parliamentary elections will be under intents scrutiny from PACE and several international and domestic observers. There will of course be violations to the electoral code. There are in most nations. Most are minor violations and do not influence the outcome of any election. Others are major violations. The number and nature of major violations is what really matters, both before, during and after any polling.
It seems this year the Ukrainian CEC will be paying particular attention to vote buying and “charitable donations”. We’ll see what happens!