The price of a vote in a Bulgarian pub

You might not look twice if you saw a politician in your pub ordering a drink, but what about if they were trying to buy votes? Sadly, such a scenario might not be surprising to people living in one village in Bulgaria.

Ahead of the 2014 Bulgarian parliamentary election, Transparency International Bulgaria received a call from a concerned citizen about a vote-buying scheme targeting the minority Roma population in a small village.

According to the witness, a local pub owner was selected by a political party to coordinate the scheme in this village. Each person who voted for the political party would reportedly receive US$40.00-55.00 per vote. The catch was that the pub owner had to ensure the political party would win in that village. If they didn’t win, the money wouldn’t be paid out.

Transparency International Bulgaria immediately alerted law enforcement authorities. The regional police department initiated an investigation, successfully targeting the perpetrators to ensure the scheme would fail and not interfere with the election – which was only a matter of days away.

Fighting electoral fraud

While this incident ended well, electoral fraud in Bulgaria remains a major problem. During the election period Transparency International Bulgaria’s helpline rings off the hook. In 2014 alone, Transparency International Bulgaria received 202 election-related complaints.

Vote-buying is one of the top three corruption complaints received during elections, and each political party has reportedly been involved in similar schemes.

The complaints received show that vote-buying tends to happen more in rural areas, where people are often more impoverished and less educated than in urban areas. The voters targeted are more susceptible to this “short-term benefit” because they need the money.

While vote-buying and electoral fraud are against the law in Bulgaria, many of the charges are dropped in court. As a result, political parties can see that they may be able to get away with it.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of Bulgarians believe their political parties and judiciary are corrupt (76 and 86 per cent respectively) illustrates the scale of the problem.

Speaking up for clean elections

Ordinary people can make a difference. If people report suspicions of wrongdoing – such as the brave citizen who alerted us about this scheme – more investigations can take place. More investigations will ultimately lead to more court verdicts that fine and punish those guilty of electoral fraud. Reporting vote-buying and electoral fraud will send a clear message: Bulgarians want clean and fair elections.

Have you witnessed corruption or wrongdoing? If so, contact your local anti-corruption advice centre.

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

The terrible consequences of police corruption in South Africa

What do we do when those mandated to protect us are serving other interests than public safety and security? In South Africa, police corruption leaves the public exposed to high rates of crime, and causes distrust of the police service while allowing crime to flourish.

Why do DRC citizens report such high levels of corruption?

People's experiences with corruption in the DRC are far worse than in most other African countries. Why is corruption so prevalent in the DRC, why is bribery so commonplace and why do two thirds of citizens feel powerless?

Is Mauritius at a tipping point in the fight against corruption?

According to the latest GCB for Africa, very few Mauritians who accessed public services, like health care and education, had to pay a bribe for those services. But given recent scandals, citizens still see certain groups and institutions as corrupt.

Protecting Africa’s wildlife from corruption

When they deliberate over amendments to the global wildlife trade regime, CoP18 must address impunity for illegal timber trafficking in Africa as a matter of high priority.

How the US can help Mongolia get to grips with corruption

A series of bi-lateral meetings and a proposed trade agreement present an opportunity for the US to promote rule of law and an independent judiciary in Mongolia.

Blood diamonds and land corruption in Sierra Leone

A community in Sierra Leone has created powerful short videos documenting their experiences of corruption, forced evictions and a botched resettlement programme at the hands of a multinational diamond mining company.

Countries must be more transparent when investigating transnational corruption

Supervisory and justice systems should be transparent and accountable so that the public can assess their performance.

Resilient institutions

Reducing corruption is an important component of the sustainable development agenda, and one that all state parties have an obligation to address. Although corruption is often thought of as a ‘third-world problem’, institutions in the Global North play an important role in the corruption cycle, and are therefore an essential part of the solutions.

In whose interest? Political integrity and corruption in Africa

What accounts for the wide disparity in peoples’ perceptions of the integrity of elected representatives in different countries? In this piece, we will to look at various forms of political corruption, how they manifest in African countries and what can be done to promote political integrity.

Cidadãos opinam sobre a corrupção em África

A décima edição do Barómetro Global de Corrupção (GCB) – África revela que embora a maioria das pessoas na África acreditem que os níveis de corrupção aumentaram no seu país, elas também se sentem otimistas, pois acreditam que os cidadãos podem fazer a diferença no combate à corrupção.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media