The smart move would be to bribe the polling officials and security officers. Less people to bribe so much cheaper. But is it worth spending eight years in jail for that? Not so smart really.
GOVERNOR ALLAN BIRD
| Academia Nomad
WEWAK - I see some smart commentators who, observing transport, food and drink provided by candidates at rallies, say this is wrong and constitutes bribery.
First of all, I don't believe our voters are stupid. Certainly not in Sepik.
Sepik voters are mature, they will accept transport, food and drink from all candidates who provide them and this will not influence them. They will still vote for the candidates of their choice.
Sepik voters want to know if the person they are electing will not only deliver goods and services but will also stand in parliament and speak for them.
They have exact standards of who they want. This is my experience over three elections. The current election is my fourth.
Perhaps in the National Capital District or in Lae, supporters can catch a bus to a rally, spend an hour there and return home on the next bus.
This is not so in East Sepik Province. For a villager to attend a rally for a candidate can mean catching a PMV at 7am, not having breakfast and returning home at 7pm.
Just to hear a 20 minute campaign speech.
Naturally they expect the candidate to pay for transport and provide a meal. Why should they pay to attend 20 rallies if there are 20 candidates?
Alternatively, candidates have to go to each village.
In this case, every village has a stage set up to be hired by candidates. They have several string bands or singing groups ready to perform for a fee. They have a mother's group ready to cook food which the candidate has to pay for.
The other peculiar thing in East Sepik is that supporters of a candidate will build a ‘campaign house’ and expect the candidate to provide tea, coffee and sugar so they can sit around and talk politics for the entire campaign period.
This is a hard one. Do you say no to the campaign houses built in your name and without your consent?
If one village supports five candidates, they will build one haus for each candidate.
My immediate village has eight campaign houses (seven for open candidates and one for me).
When an NGO or a government agency has a training workshop, consultation or other activity, participants are provided transport, meals, accommodation and allowances costing around K500 a day for each participant.
If villagers are expected to attend a rally and not tend to their cocoa or vanilla garden, they expect free transport, a biscuit and a drink costing K3.
Surely that is not an unreasonable expectation for people’s 12-hour day.
People talk about bribery a lot and I suppose it happens.
I have never experienced it myself but, say, I need 12,000 votes to win an open seat and each voter asks for a K100 bribe.
If I pay it, that's K1.2 million.
Say I buy 12,000 tee-shirts at K20 each. That's K240,000.
Say I need fuel, posters, a hire car, campaign coordinators and the rest, that's another K200,000.
These are crazy numbers.
Elections are not cheap. If you have a budget of K500,000, that will only cover your logistics. It's not enough to bribe 12,000 voters.
In the case of a provincial seat – the seat that elects governors - it's much more expensive.
I received 88,000 votes in 2017. If I bribed my voters with K100 each, it would cost me K8.8 million.
The person who came second scored 64,000 votes so, if he bribed them, he would have to spend K6.4 million.
The smart move would be to bribe the polling officials and security officers. Less people to bribe so much cheaper.
They could then do something illegal to get you declared. But is it worth spending eight years in jail for that? Not so smart really.
Many people who have never run a campaign have no idea what it costs to run one.
So give our voters some credit, our people are not stupid. They know what they are doing.