Saturday, September 18, 2010

Afghan Votes Come Cheap, and Often in Bulk

New York Times
September 17, 2010

Saturday’s parliamentary elections offer a unique opportunity to ascertain that price — and it is in theory a market with many buyers, as 2,500 candidates scramble for only 249 seats. Afghanistan may be a feudal society in many ways, but it is very much capitalist feudalism (as the Soviets found out to their regret).

Nonetheless, prices are low. In northern Kunduz Province, Afghan votes cost $15 each; in eastern Ghazni Province, a vote can be bought for $18. In Kandahar, they sell their rights for as little as $1 a ballot. More commonly, the price seems to hover in the $5 to $6 range, as quoted to New York Times reporters in places like Helmand and Khost Provinces.

Even by the standards of a country rated as one of the poorest in the world, Afghans seem to be selling their votes cheap, and it is not so surprising why.


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