Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, April 20th, 2019

An Economic Approach to Elections (Public choice)


An Economic Approach to Elections (Public choice)

In second part of our discussion we want to mention to another aspect of public choice, to “the market for votes”. There is more to interest-group politics than forming one-off coalitions to build a majority on a single issue. Politics is a continual process, with a variety of different issues coming up over time – a state of affairs that gives wide scope for individuals and groups to gain from exchanging support between each other. Again, the process starts with a group that feels intensely about some issue – the need for getting more ministries especially in nowadays Afghanistan, say. It makes a simple bargain with other such groups: you vote to for our ministries, and we will vote for yours. These kind of vote trading is known as logrolling. An agreement to exchange votes on separate legislative measures, as in ministries example, is called explicit logrolling. It is common in democratic bodies, such as committees and legislatures, where votes are easily traded and – since both partners need to know that the other is delivering the bargain – easily observed. It does not work so well in secret ballots, or between large groups that cannot easily discipline their members. As in Afghanistan we had that problem about Hazarah people at beginning of Ghani government as all of their proposed ministers, maybe due to secret ballot in parliament or maybe because of weak bargain with other lawmakers.   
Another mechanism, implicit logrolling, is where the different groups bundle their various proposals into a package before they are voted on. So voters or legislators who feel very strongly about one measure also end up voting for other people’s measures too. This kind of vote trading is common when party election manifestos or legislative proposals are being put together. In Afghanistan we has just this kind of mechanism for presidency election because nation must vote for president and his two veepees.
Then would be faced with a kind of pack. And also we have this kind of trading about budgets and maybe when parliament should decide about interpellations. Implicit logrolling has many benefits for legislators. By packaging their special interest measure with those of others, they can attract greater support for it, without accepting responsibility for the whole package. It is therefore no surprise that logrolling is a significant part of the democratic process. But, unlike in implicit logrolling, where the package to be voted on may be worked out in deals behind closed doors, the vote trading in explicit logrolling is at least transparent: everyone can see how votes are being traded. Even so, some ‘explicit’ vote trading is not actually so explicit. Where a number of issues are coming up, as they do in legislatures all the time, there is quite often only an unspoken assumption of mutual support. Legislators will vote for colleagues’ projects in the hope and expectation that those colleagues will remember the favor and return it by voting for their favored measure when the time comes.
Implicit logrolling is strong at many levels, particularly in the formation of parties and their election programmers. Parties are by nature assemblies of different interests who agree to support each other so as to build an activist group of credible size and strength. The fact that parties often suffer internal disagreements and splits is evidence of this trading partnership. But about Afghanistan obviously our parties, somehow is circling around one important famous pillar and his benefits not in really related to ordinary advocators or even other its factitive authorities. We can reach to this fact after leader’s death and his son’s superintendence over that party.      
Once in office, political leaders also engage in logrolling as they decide on the policy measures that will go to the legislature. Cabinet ministers may agree to support legislative proposals that will benefit a colleague, even if they do not much like the measure, on the (often unspoken) presumption that the colleague will in turn support them in cabinet when the situation is reversed. And almost every measure that gets to the legislature is itself likely to become the object of implicit logrolling, as its promoters make concessions or add details that will buy the support of minorities and so ensure its smooth passage.
To take an everyday example, imagine three student roommates voting on whether to buy, jointly, a television that none could afford on their own. One is intensely keen on getting a television, but the other two are each very marginally against. If a vote is taken, the TV will be rejected; but this does not reflect the intensity of feelings within the group. If the pro-TV student paid one of the others to vote yes, or offered to return the favor in some future vote, the intensity of feelings is reflected and the group will buy the TV.
As Another example we can remember that Afghanistan’s parliament’s representatives voted in one so shameful enactment  in 23th Juan, 2014 about their special rights and huge permanent stipend for themselves and all of them were agree with that law without just 8 represents. It was so painful when you imagine that this country is so poor and undeveloped. But it is a reality in Public choice theory and not surprising.    

Mohammad Ibrahim Ehsani is the emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan.

Go Top