Will Niger’s electoral legal framework curb voter inducement?
Niger is one of the many African countries that are challenged with commercialisation and monetisation of elective politics. Candidates rely on the distribution of electoral rents to encourage voter participation. The next presidential election in Niger will happen in 2026.
And there is a gender perspective to this because in the 2021 elections, local observer group Roseau des Organisations et Associations pour Democratie et Developpement (ROADD), reported that women receive an average of 1,000 CFA francs per person for attending a political meeting, while men receive up to 2,500 CFA francs per person.
The argument for this segregation is that women in Niger are less educated, and are thus most likely to vote for the party or candidate that their husbands support, regardless of who it is.
The distribution of campaign cash to activists is considered widespread, and many activists admit to making the decision to campaign for a party on the basis of how much a political party or candidate is willing to put on the table.
The secret known is that many of the Nigerien electorates are living in poverty, and this renders them vulnerable to being easily persuaded by cash handouts than the middle or wealthy classes of the citizenry.
In a poor country like Niger, vote-buying is not an option. Actually, it may be more strategic for a party to invest in vote buying than in developing a well-thought-out election manifesto that can only convince a small portion of elite voters.
Niger’s clientelist electoral system is attributed to political and economic factors. Electoral rents would not have become a problem for democracy if voters would take them but vote for the party or candidate of their choice. But it does not happen that way. Once they take cash and/or gifts from a party or candidates, there is a sense in which they feel obliged to return a favour. And they always do.
However, there are provisions in the current electoral laws that offer opportunities for reform. These include the enforcement of legislation that prevents voters from being able to prove which party they voted for, as well as educating those less deeply affected by the patronage system to use different voting strategies.