Money politics is a major factor that influences electoral politics in the Solomon Islands.
The 2019 Solomon Islands National General Elections Observation Report, published by the Australian National University Department of Pacific Affairs has found.
It said, candidates, using money to directly influence voters can range from vote-buying to gift-giving, to promising material benefits to supporters prior to the election.
The report said, its 2014 observation found that money politics featured heavily in campaigns leading up to the election.
It said, observers witnessed candidates handing out benefits such as cash and material goods on the night before the election day – Devil’s Night.
The new Electoral Act introduced harsher penalties for electoral offenses and a 24-hour ban on campaigning prior to polling, to reduce the prevalence of money politics.
SIEC carried out voter education and awareness campaigns that focused heavily on electoral offenses and penalties.
Meanwhile, the ANU Observers reported that these campaigns were effective in increasing voters’ awareness of the repercussions associated with vote-buying and gifting.
Consequently, observers witnessed fewer direct instances of money politics in 2019.
The report said, while it is plausible that these reforms have had some impact on reducing money politics, it is more likely such practices have been driven underground.
What is clear is that voters were reluctant to disclose their involvement in, or knowledge of, these illegal activities to the ANU observers, it adds.