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Kuwait vows zero-tolerance towards vote buying

Candidates use array of tricks to secure ballots ahead of elections

Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait’s interior ministry has waged a merciless battle against trafficking in votes ahead of the parliamentary elections due later this month.

“The interior minister’s instructions have been very strict about a zero-tolerance policy towards those who want to secure votes by offering money to voters,” security sources said, quoted by local daily Al Rai on Tuesday. “Any attempt to influence voters or to promote preliminary voting among tribes and clans will result in legal prosecution,” the sources said.

Kuwaiti men and women on July 27 will elect 50 lawmakers to the parliament. The elections have created a big buzz in the country even though opposition figures have been pushing for their boycott to force the revocation of a decree that amended the 2006 electoral law and slashed the number of ballots a voter could cast from four to one.

The opposition claimed that political money was being used to influence the outcome of the elections amid suspicions that candidates were paying money, directly or through intermediaries, to secure votes. The interior ministry has pledged to foil all attempts to influence the national polls.

“The crackdown by the interior ministry has made intermediaries very cautious about purchasing votes,” the source told Al Rai daily. “Most of them have limited their contacts with voters and have instead opted for group-buying instead of single votes.”

Under the group-buying scheme, a candidate pays a large sum of money to the intermediary who secures 20, 30 or 40 votes together.

“The process is still in its initial stages because those who are ready to sell their votes are not yet satisfied with the offers available. In some constituencies, a candidate said discreetly that he would pay 400 dinars (Dh5,135) for a single vote with the voter receiving 300 dinars ahead of the casting of the ballot and 100 dinars afterwards. However, the offer was flatly rejected,” the sources said.

Another scheme to ensure votes was to register voters as volunteers in a candidate’s campaign and providing them with money, up to 500 dinars, for their contributions.

“It is a novel way to beat the system and avoid problems with the interior ministry,” the sources said. “In other cases, the candidate pledges to find jobs for the unemployed sons of a voter.”