A corrupt politician’s strong tribal identity can create an impossible situation for honest candidates to succeed, and so the corrupt are re-elected
PORT MORESBY - Despite colossal efforts by international partners, NGOs and other entities to rid us of corrupt leaders, we are again confronted by their resurgence after the just completed national elections.
As I see things, this is due to three cultural factors that are the salient catalysts that cause voters to install corrupt leaders election after election.
The first I will call bigmanship - the cultural esteem and regard that the people feel for a leader.
A big man is a highly influential individual in a tribe, especially in Melanesia and Polynesia.
Such a person may not have formal tribal or other authority (through for instance material possessions, or inheritance of rights), but can maintain recognition through skilled persuasion and wisdom.
The big man has a large group of followers, both from his clan and from other clans.
He provides his followers with protection and economic assistance, in return receiving support which he uses to increase his status. http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_man_(anthropology)
When these people ascend high in the coveted sphere of politics, the voting populous place them at the same level of a demigod.
They capture the imagination of voters, remaining their preferred choice in spite of their many follies.
Current popular leaders I’d nominate to be riding the tide of big man fame are Powes Parkop, William Duma, Peter Ipatas and Don Polye amongst others.
In an election a big man is always hard to defeat despite the herculean efforts of rival candidates.
The second factor is tribalism:“the state of being organised by, or advocating for, tribes or tribal lifestyles.” https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Tribalism
“[It is} tribal consciousness and loyalty especially: exaltation of the tribe above other groups.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tribalism
Every person in a community is linked to the tribe, gaining a sense of belonging and affiliation as a social being.
Their tribal loyalty supersedes all other societal affiliations. When one of their tribesmen stands for elected office, the whole tribe rises to support that person.
For the tribal-conscious voting populous, the tribesman is the preferred candidate despite his myriad follies.
When their tribesman is elected, it elevates tribal identity to the apogee of the socio-politico and economic landscape.
His (or her) victory is everyone’s victory.
Victory creates an opportunity for tribal chest beating and for mad celebrations.
A corrupt politician’s strong tribal identity can create an impossible situation for honest candidates to succeed, and so the corrupt are re-elected.
The final factor assisting corrupt politicians is the availability of free goods.
Leaders known to help people when they are in need will be held in high esteem and voted for. And it is hard to say this is not deserved.
But, whether they are needy or not, people are inclined to vote for politicians who provide them with free stuff.
Leaders offer free cash are especially popular. Or they may dole out free torches, blankets, cooking pots, mosquito nets, bush knives and spades.
By offering free goods to the people, they create a mechanism that indirectly influences voting.
Behaving like Father Christmas, dispensing lollies or free goods to a gullible and a naïve voting population to win hearts and votes, well it works.
If leadership is bequeathed by followers, the possibility of eliminating corrupt politicians is slim because voters are oblivious of such high minded matters as the spirit of democratic elections or the concept of a free and fair election.
Accordingly, one of the disturbing trends of the recently completed national election was this surge in the popularity of corrupt politicians placed on pedestal by their supporters.
The social media was used by supporters of corrupt politicians to post photos and policy statements of. A ferocious media war was fought between tribal supporters of each candidate on these virtual spaces.
Supporters who strongly believe in bigman, tribalism and free goods provide strong deterrents to eliminating corrupt leaders in Papua New Guinea.
If the current socio-political and tribe-centric thinking prevails, we are heading to brinkmanship and anarchy.
What is needed is a change of mindset from bigmanship and tribalistic consciousness to national consciousness, so that voters elect the best possible candidates with the best character traits and policies to bring tangible development to the nation.