Markets in Everything: Afghan Votes

by on September 18, 2010 at 8:15 am in Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink

The NYTimes has an excellent piece today on vote-buying in Afghanistan:

How much does it cost to buy an Afghan vote?

Saturday’s parliamentary elections offer a unique opportunity to ascertain that price – and it is in theory a market with many buyers, as 2,500 candidates scramble for only 249 seats….

Nonetheless, prices are low. In northern Kunduz Province, Afghan votes cost $15 each; in eastern Ghazni Province, a vote can be bought for $18. In Kandahar, they sell their rights for as little as $1 a ballot. More commonly, the price seems to hover in the $5 to $6 range, as quoted to New York Times reporters in places like Helmand and Khost Provinces.

You may be surprised to learn that in Afghanistan a woman's vote is regarded as especially valuable:

He wanted to know how many of the cards were for female voters; those are more valuable because, out of respect for cultural sensitivities, women’s registration cards do not bear photographs, so they are easy for anyone to use. 

Here is my favorite bit.  Vote buying is much more common in this election than in the last.  So things have gotten worse, right?  Maybe not:

The feeling, experts say, was that last year’s election was stolen wholesale by supporters of President Hamid Karzai, so there was little need for vote buying.

Tom September 18, 2010 at 8:38 am

At least they are more transparent than ACORN

Bill September 18, 2010 at 9:21 am

So, the Afghan Supreme Court adopted Citizens United as well–pay for votes directly when you don,t have a media infrastructure on which you could place political advertisements. We should consider this here. How much would you consider selling your vote for?

Teamster September 18, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Bill, it would heavily depend on the office being voted on in addition to other election-specific factors. However, I’d probably sell my standard presidential election vote for $100. Maybe even closer to $75. But I do think it depends on how many other people I perceive being bought off. Individually my vote doesn’t mean anything so I would easily sell it, but as the pool of honest voters shrink, my vote would become more valuable.

Brian Moore September 18, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Is 15 bucks per vote any different than proposing a policy that will cause 15 million dollars of benefit to 1 million people? Any snobbery we have about Afghans selling their vote seems to be primarily a feature of price, since we usually charge more.

hairstraightener September 19, 2010 at 5:00 am

I am always surprised that votes are not for sale in smaller niche elections in the United States and Canada. Thank you very much for sharing the article, it is very good!

Raphfrk September 19, 2010 at 12:57 pm

If you promise to pay someone $100 if you win the office, this creates an incentive for people to vote for you.

However, it isn’t vote buying, since it isn’t conditional on the voter voting for you.

If your policies will cost that voter $1000, then they won’t vote for you, even with the incentive.

However, if you give the voter $10 on condition that they vote for you (and can verify/enforce the agreement), then it is their interests to accept. You are going to win or lose no matter how they vote. Accepting the $10 means that your election only costs them $990 instead of $1000.

A market where voters can hedge against election results isn’t vote buying, since any money transfers are dependent on how the voter personally votes.

If a candidate was to bet that he is going to lose, then that could end up being interpreted as vote buying.

On the cost of votes, apparently, the campaign spend by both parties for the last Presidential election was around $1 trillion total, so that works out at about $3,000 per resident and this is just for the hope of winning.

gfdgfd September 19, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Votre article m’a donné beaucoup de reflexions. Allez-vous faire des folies sur une paire de bottes ugg cette saison ? Ces bottes sont très belles.

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