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YLAI for Integrity in Politics

August 1, 2017

Read the transcript in Spanish, French and English.

In the video, a candidate is offering to pay a mayor for support in a local election and promises that once he’s in office he will “do everything by the book.” Not likely, said Thierry Uwamahoro, a senior program officer with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI).

“Vote buying is rarely an isolated action, and it perpetuates corruption throughout the entire political system. When a candidate chooses to pay for support, rather than compete fairly for votes, they show a disregard for democratic norms and a willingness to use illegal means,” Uwamahoro said. “If they see that buying off supporters worked during the election, what is to stop them from using that strategy in other areas of governance?”

Broadly speaking, vote buying obstructs the democratic process by interfering with the rights of citizens to freely decide who will represent them and their interests. “This can result in the candidate with the deepest pockets winning the election, rather than the candidate who would best serve their constituents,” Uwamahoro said. Ideally, elections create a “social contract” between candidates and constituents who voted with the presumption that the candidates will govern along the lines of their stated policy platforms.

“Vote buying enables poor governance and undercuts citizens’ ability to hold their elected officials accountable. If a candidate believes all they need to do to be elected is pay off voters and government officials, they will have no incentive to be responsive to issues their constituents care about — issues like water and sanitation, education and unemployment,” Uwamahoro said.

Along with damaging the candidate’s credibility, vote buying deters aspiring political leaders from running for office because it suggests that money, rather than ideas or experience, is how to win an election. “That discourages qualified candidates from running for office, while entrenching corrupt officials in their positions,” Uwamahoro said. In places where vote buying is common, candidates face the dilemma of needing to mobilize most of their resources to buy the votes and assuming office with significant debts from campaigning.

“According to international standards, in a true democracy every citizen has the right to stand for office, subject to reasonable restrictions.” Vote buying makes it impossible to meet these standards by penalizing potential candidates who are at an economic disadvantage. especially women and minority politicians, Uwamahoro said.

Ask yourself: Do you know any potentially great public officials who won’t seek office because the cost is too high?

Integrity Starts With You. Join #YLAI For Integrity by taking the pledge at ylai.state.gov/integrity.

Video Transcript


Assistant: The Mayor will see you now, Mr. Jeffries.

Mr. Jeffries: Thank you. How ya doin? I’ve got my campaign manager breathing down my neck. I’m polling several points behind my opponent. I have to act swiftly, but discretely. I can’t leave anything up to chance in this election. That’s where our good friend, The Mayor, comes into play. I’m going to offer her a great sum of- well…donations- to whatever her cause is and in return I’m going to get the votes of her constituents and her more enthusiastic supporters. Is it a bit shady? Sure, I’ll be the first to admit. However, once I’m elected, I’m going to do everything by the book. I can play a fair game too, once I’ve assured a win. I give you my sincere word.

Where’s the harm in that?
[TEXT: Good people won’t serve in government if the cost is too high.]

[TEXT: Learn “What’s the harm?” at ylai.state.gov/integrity]


Assistant: Le maire vous voit maintenant

M. Jeffries. Je vous remercie. Comment allez vous? Mon directeur de campagne qui souffle sur mon cou je suis dans les sondages loin de plusieurs points derrière mon adversaire. Je dois agir rapidement et discrètement. Je ne peux rien laisser à la chance dans cette élection. C’est là où notre bon ami, le maire entre en action. Je vais lui offrir une grande somme de … bien, les dons pour sa cause quelle qu’elle soit… je reçois en retour les votes de ses administrés et une petite aide supplémentaire de ses partisans les plus enthousiastes. Est-ce que c’est un peu louche ? Certainement, je serai le premier à l’admettre. Cependant, je ferai tout selon les règles lorsque je serai élu. Je serai honnête aussi… lorsque j’aurai assuré une victoire. Vous avez ma parole.

Où est le mal en ça ?

[TEXT: Les personnes de qualité ne serviront pas dans le gouvernement si le coût est trop élevé]

[TEXT: Apprendre “Où est le mal en ça ?” à ylai.state.gov/integrity]


Asistente: Sr. Jeffries, el alcalde puede verlo ahora.

Sr. Jeffries: Gracias. ¿Como estas? Yo tengo a mi jefe de campaña supervisándome de cerca Aparezco en las encuestas algunos puntos detrás de mi oponente. Tengo que actuar rápidamente y discretamente. Se da cuenta, yo tengo que prepararme para cualquier cosa en estas elecciones. Es ahí donde nuestro buen amigo, el alcalde entra en acción. Voy a ofrecerle a ella una gran suma de… bueno, donaciones a cualquiera que sea causa… a cambio yo recibo los votos de sus constituyentes y una pequeña ayuda adicional de sus más entusiastas seguidores. ¿Es eso que propongo un poco turbio? Seguro lo es, yo soy el primero que lo admite. Sin embargo, voy hacer todo según el reglamento, cuando sea elegido. Yo también voy a jugar un juego limpio…. una vez yo haya asegurado el triunfo. Les doy mi palabra de honor.

¿Qué hay de malo en eso?
[TEXT: La gente buena no trabajará en el gobierno porque el costo es demasiado alto.]

[TEXT: Aprenda “¿Cuál sería el daño?” En ylai.state.gov/integrity]