What Does Vote Buying Mean?

On Monday, EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin called upon Albanian citizens not to “sell their vote” during the June 25 parliamentary elections. This “don’t sell your vote” is a common mantra among the well-willing internationals in this country, as if vote buying were truly a great threat to democracy – a greater threat than the politicians that will be elected.

Because what is vote buying actually? Vote buying means that you give your vote to a party or candidate in exchange for money or goods – the famous bags of flour. But how is that different from voting for a party because they promise to lower taxes? Or because they promise to subsidize childcare? Or because they promise free education? All of these promises basically represent a monetary value for the voter, and especially lower-income households immediately feel the effect of changes in the subsidy and taxation system in their wallet.

So how are these promises for lower taxes or extra subsidies different from vote buying – the exchange of money for a vote?

What the internationals actually want to say is that you should vote for a party based on its content, its program, its values, its ideology, and not purely based on how much money will end up in your wallet. The elections, Ambassador Vlahutin wants to tell us, are about more than just momentary, individual gain; they determine the future of the nation, not just whether you can buy food the next week.

The problem is that Albanian political parties do not have any content, program, value, or ideology – or at least, they all have the same ones. As Gjergj Erebara from Reporter pointed out a week ago, the promises of the major parties in the elections are hardly distinguishable from those made in 2013, and hardly distinguishable from each other.

So citizens of Albania, faced with with a political situation in which all parties promise more of the same, and will all break those promises at the moment they are elected, have logically only one objective criterion for judging where to cast their vote: how much money do I get in hand, right now? Any future monetary gain – through free healthcare, employment, or subsidies – may well turn out to be a mirage, a promise made by everyone and kept by no one.

This is something that Vlahutin and all her jetset humanist colleagues fail to truly appreciate. Their endless babble about consensus, the inclusion of the opposition, full representation, etc., etc. has led to a political situation in which there is literally no choice.

And in such a thoroughly cynical environment, devoid of any potential for a different future, staying at home or selling your vote becomes the only rational thing to do.