5 million votes up for sale

14:21, 30 August 2012
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Almost no candidate running in constituencies can earn a mandate without bribing the voter, KW wrote in the latest issue.

KW approached a political analysts to learn: a) what is the approximate amount of money that a candidate for a first-past-the-post seat in parliament spends on buying off voters; b) how many marketing networks do candidates used in their constituencies and on what number of grateful voters are they counting on; and c) why do Ukrainians that receive food, medicine and monetary gratuities not report this fact to the police.

With around 160,000 voters in a constituency in Ukraine and approximate turnout is 60%, the number of voters in a constituency is between 90 and 95 thousand. And seeing as there is no line-item labeled “Against All” in election ballots, all votes are regarded as legitimate. So, taking into account the results of previous elections a candidate only needs to mobilize 15-20% of the total number of voters in a constituency i.e. a candidate needs slightly less than 20,000 votes in order to earn the desired Rada seat.

Director of the non-government network OPORA Olha Aivazovska in particular says in some cases databases of voters prepared to sell their vote are bought outright. She says the managers of election headquarters that worked in previous elections possess such databases. “Such databases are sold for exorbitant prices. This is a tool that can ensure victory,” Aivasovska underscored.

When it comes to direct bribes, the expert noted that such cases have not been observed. At the same time, as the experience in local elections in 2010 showed such cases were registered and unfortunately observers did not register similar cases after that. Aivazovska believes it will cost a candidate UAH 500 to influence a person’s vote. “Nobody will pay more than 500 hryvnia. Three are examples from the parliamentary elections in 2002 when a candidate bought 20,000 votes to ensure his victory,” the expert noted. To garner the necessary 20,000 votes,  a Rada runner hence needs to spend minimum UAH 10 mn, but to play it safe, the expenditures must run into US $5 mn on average, the residual will be spent on working with members of the election commission, local “generals”, transient voters and outdoor advertising.

At the moment a minimum of two candidates are handing out buckwheat in every constituency. However, the total number of voters that candidates try to buy off is around 60-70% of theoretical voters (with a so-called reserve), which is around 55-60 thousand people depending on the constituency. Of this amount there are approximately 25-30 votes per 1,000. That means the candidate who has a worse marketing network loses. So, in Ukraine there are 225 ridings and even if to estimate that a candidate canvasses 20,000 people in a constituency, this comes out nearly 5 mn votes, the article by Dmytro Kachura concludes.

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