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Kuwait Elections: Vote Buying

Front page of the online Arab Times:

They’re buying votes … Do something

KUWAIT CITY : The Ministry of Interior should immediately take the necessary action to curb the widespread vote-buying in some constituencies and prevent incompetent candidates from entering the Parliament, former MPs and 2008 parliamentary election candidates told the Arab Times.

One of the smartest bloggers out there, Touche´, wrote a comment on an earlier election blog entry, and it was SO good, so memorable (this man should be writing and editing for one of the daily English papers and teaching Political Science) on vote buying and how it is implemented that I am going to reprint his comments here to illustrate how the vote buying in Kuwait is accomplished.

Let me indulge you with our rotten political trends.

This is a funny ironic melancholic TRUE story, I have a colleague at work who is “Mutawa” (fresh your old post) who belongs to “Salaf a.k.a. The Islamic Heritage Rejuvenating Society (this is my best translation) and who is has the last name of one of the tribes. Now on the last elections back on 2006 I asked him to whom did you vote, thinking that he must have voted for that group’s candidates, and the shocking news is that he said the week before elections I swore an oath with all the area followers to vote for the Islamic candidates and I quote him “When I went there to vote and tried to vote for the sworn names, the pen would go directly to those candidates who belong to my tribe, I couldn’t do it, so I voted for one of the Islamic candidates and the other vote went to our tribe’s guy”. Now I told him that you’ve sworn on the Quran!! How cold you do that? The answer was simple, “I just couldn’t, it’s in my blood, it’s something beyond your comprehension”

As for your question about votes purchasing, it starts as follows (sorry but I had to put them into steps for clarity purposes:

1. The buyer’s representative (BR) scouts the area for the right voters who are willing to sell their votes for money.

2. BR approaches the voter and persuade him/her and both agree on the price of each vote (female votes are being negotiated with the woman’s brother, father or husband)

3. Once the deal is closed, the voter has to submit his/her national ID to the BR to insure that voter hasn’t closed another deal with another candidate and the documents are held with the BR until elections day (on extreme cases, a trust worthy voter won’t submit the documents and his word is taken as it is considered stronger than oak)

4. All BRs know each other as they are basically residents of the same area and they exchange a list of those voters who sold their votes an cross examine them for duplications to prevent any frauds.

5. Now the interesting tactics, on election day, a candidate may choose not to give the national ID to the voter if the he feels that he has secured his win and thus eliminating any chances of any frauds by voter to shift his votes to opponents.

6. If the candidate needs the vote, the corresponding BR calls up the voter and walks him to the election classroom signaling another same candidate’s BR who sits in that classroom to observe the integrity of the processes, now that guy knows that the voter isn’t a supporter and has been paid based on the signal thus he keeps a hawk eye on him trying to see how many ticks were placed on the voting form and does the tick fits the area on the form where candidate’s name is printed (it’s merely an approximate observation).


a. The timing of the purchased votes isn’t random and are chosen specifically by the candidate’s campaign and usually the purchased voted are being herded as sheep in groups either at the early morning or an hour before the closing time.

b. The paid amount is %50 before voting and the remaining %50 when the inside BR sms the voter’s delivery BR that the vote has been verified based on his observation and thus the full payment is due.

c. The vote’s price depends on the nature of the vote itself (solo/dual for the old election ways). Solos are the highest paid and the ones which BRs aim for.

d. Buying votes isn’t to insure number of votes, the key element of the whole process is to target those votes which are considered as opponents insured votes, by keeping those national ID (voting ID for this election) the candidate uses a term called “Votes Burning” where he holds back those IDs and never giving them to voters until election boxes are sealed to eliminate opponents’ insured votes.

Blogger Chirp reports being offered KD 4000 (that’s about $16,000) for her vote. Imagine the temptation! Chirp has character and integrity, and turned it down, but imagine how tempting that might be to a young person who wants education, or a new car, or to pay off debts, or who has a wedding coming up. That’s a LOT of money for just one vote; imagine the deep pockets who can afford to buy that many votes?

April 18, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Political Issues, Social Issues | , | 4 Comments

Turning into a Kuwaiti

We were lingering over the last bites of dessert and coffee in our favorite French restaurant when one phone rang and after a brief conversation, my friend turned to the rest of us and said “We have to get home. That was Anwar saying another storm had rolled in.”

We had all known it was a possibility, but wanted to take the chance to get together anyway. It was one of those rare occasions when our husbands were out of town, we could eat at a restaurant WE liked that they didn’t, we could get together and not worry about when we were getting home. We flurried out, I quickly dropped off my friends and headed home.

The streets were relatively quiet and the traffic relatively slow. I found myself thinking about the evening and how far I have come, living in Kuwait. I’m driving at night, and I don’t even feel a surge of fear-filled adrenalin, I’m driving in a sandstorm going ho-hum, just need to get home, and I’ve just had a great evening with female friends.

And I thought “I’m turning into a Kuwaiti woman.”

The West is so couple oriented. I remember when I was living near my parents in Seattle, and my husband was overseas, I hated Sundays; Sundays seemed like couples’ day to me – couples/families go to church, go to breakfast, go out shopping. Mostly on Sunday I would go to church, go to breakfast with a bunch of church friends and then go home, spend the rest of the day reading the Sunday paper and working on projects. If I were out and about, I would only be reminded how lonely I was, how I was missing a piece, I was incomplete.

In the Gulf, most of the social life is segregated – women go to women’s things, men go to men’s things, families do family things. Things are changing, but there isn’t a lot of “married-people-having-dates-with-their-own-spouses going on. Women go to engagement parties, wedding parties, condolence calls, they go shopping, they meet up at restaurants, they get together in one another’s houses. Men meet up at the diwaniyya, a local shisha cafe, they visit their extended family, they hang out and play cards, they race along the streets. The great circle called men’s social life intersects with the great circle called women’s social life intersect only rarely.

And here I am, meeting up for dinner with my female friends, and driving home alone at night through a sandstorm. Yep. I am definitely turning into a Kuwaiti.

April 18, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Biography, Community, Cross Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Seattle, Social Issues | 17 Comments