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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
What influences your voting decision?
Voting
South African elections were praised last month

Several African countries are gearing up for general elections this year.

Malawians go to the polls next Tuesday, followed by Mozambique, Cameroon, Botswana, Niger, Namibia and Ghana later in the year.

The BBC's Africa Live programme joins the election trail asking: What makes you vote?

VOTE RESULTS
What do you vote for?
Personality
27%
Policies
73%
324 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed

Is it the policies of a political party or the personality of a candidate?

Maybe you hate the idea of participating in elections. Tell us why?

Join the BBC's Africa Live debate Wednesday 12 May at 1630 & 1830GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments - some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.


From a South African point of view, there are quite a number of factors that influence one to vote, namely Race: For instance, in apartheid South Africa the franchise was one of the fundamental human rights that blacks were denied. Thus, it is not always surprising to hear (black) people talking about the need to vote lest apartheid returns through elections. Secondly, many people in South Africa gave the ruling ANC an overwhelming mandate mostly because they believe that it has the capacity to deal with poverty and unemployment. And thirdly, the need to maintain good governance and a responsible but equally effective opposition. I believe that quite a number of people in South Africa are proud of their country's present image internationally and they would certainly like to maintain this image. Hence, the need to vote.
Dr. Kealeboga Maphunye, South Africa

I think the most important thing a leader's personality. Policies alone don't decide the future of a country, it is their leaders that have to stand strong in their ideas and plans for the country. As we have seen in the international stage, policies carried out by weak politicians have caused a lot of damage to their countries.
Labris, Australia

I understand that people vote to change policies, governments and institute new ideas. It is a general view that it is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it. That's the reason why I vote.
Edward Adarkwa, Ghana

In Africa, especially Nigeria, the vote doesn't count. It is always the highest rigger that wins elections. So, why bother myself when my vote will not count?
Sanchez Chibueze Aniamalu, Nigerian in Burkina Faso

Three times we have been fooled when we voted along so called policies. They sounded so good in word but could hardly be executed. Next time I will vote on personality lines. Humble and morally upright politicians, if any: A politician who will identify himself with the people and their problems.
Myk, Ghana

African politicians always complain that elections were rigged but there are only two results - win or lose. I vote on policies not personality. Personality does not give me food nor pays my salary but policies determine my value.
Ben, Ghanaian (UK)

In Africa generally, few vote for personalities or policies. Rather most vote on tribal and or regional sentiments as the parties themselves are based. In Sierra Leone for example, people argue and cry down the government and its policies.They even brand all the politicians to be the same. Yet when elections come every body goes back to his or her shelter - their party. This is African democracy.
Henry Mbawa Jr, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Voting in many nations is driven by many factors, some believe voting by race or voting by political party. But I personally believe that voting should be based only on political advantage and not any other reason.
Dada Olamide, USA

Regardless of whether the election is in Africa or elsewhere, the personality and the policies will both dictate election results. Take even the United States, where candidates who are willing to question the very policies that most people decry as wasteful or unfair are thrown out of the process because they seem to be unstable. Politics is less about the policies and personalities of the candidates than it is about placating the electorate with more of the comfortable and inoffensive stuff they've been used to.
Gregory, USA (Washington, DC) In Ethiopia, peasants vote because they need fertiliser, whose distribution is a sole monopoly business of the ruling party. For that reason, the timings of voting and fertiliser distributions have always been the same. So everybody is happy: peasants get fertiliser and the ruling party gets the votes.
Boruu Hifa, UK

I am not sure if I will ever vote again. The 19 April 2003 elections left me wondering if my vote really counts. The ruling party enforces irregularities before, during and after elections. They even insult your sensibilities by asking you to go to court. In the end there is yet no justice. I cannot waste my time queuing to vote. It just doesn't count.
Nkem Chima, Nigeria

I vote on the issues. I only vote for the party that is able to convince me that they have what it takes to improve the economic situation of Ghana. In 1992, I voted for the NDC because they promised to continue with the infrastructural development that they were undertaking. However, in 1996 and 2000 I voted for the opposition NPP because they began to talk about the economy and their capabilities to better manage the affairs of the country. In this year's elections, I haven't made up my mind yet because although I feel somewhat disappointed with the NPP government, none of the opposition parties has so far convinced me that they can do anything differently from what the incumbent government is doing.
Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako, Ghana

Most People in Africa seem to vote for the same party over and over even though it doesn't deliver on promises. The reason people vote this way is about loyalty to a party, rather than policies. In time this will change as people get more educated, they will start questioning the parties they vote for.
Henri, South African in UK.

As a young teenager in the early 1990s, I saw the personalities as a more contributing influence in the 1992 general elections in Ghana. It was however not surprising when I attained voting age in 1996, I voted on personalities. At my age now, with my country having experience a good democracy over a decade, I will cast my vote this year on the issues the two candidates present. This is because, in terms of personality, they are the finest politicians Ghana has produced so far.
Jerr Tsatro Mordy, Ghana

I vote personalities first before I scrutinise whether the political leanings are leftists, rightists or conservatives. Charming, inspiring and guys with great oratory skills are my favourites. In Kenya, there is one guy called PLO Lumumba whom I would wish to see as a president in future because of his gift of the gab and what he stands for.
Kipnusu Robert, Kenya

Being a serious Christian and an attorney, I appreciate the value of my vote and treat it jealously and wisely. What is at stake is the nation's soul. For this reason voters need to take their vote very seriously. In Malawi, political parties, largely, are defined by the leader's personalities. We have five Presidential candidates. I have looked at their personalities and past records. Do they have skeletons or not? In short my desire is to have a Godly leader in Sanjika Palace with a high level of integrity, education and wisdom.
Pacharo Kayira, Malawi

Well, African elections are not for those with the best manifestos that will become the policies of the winning party. Our elections are far more complex than that. Behind the personality is the issue of tribe, region and what is called the God-fathership. Even political parties are formed along these lines not on principles and ideologies. We are yet to reach the level of considering policies as a factor of vote determinant.
Momo F. Turay, Scotland

What am about to say is a true reflection of politics in Malawi. We have a lot of illiterate people whose actions depend entirely on what they hear. This leaves Malawi or the electorate in an awkward position when it comes to critically analysing policies. All we hear is more of castigating each other on personalities. In the end we are trapped in a scenario where personality traits apply more than policies.
Stephen Luwanda, Malawi

Participating in the electoral process or exercising one's right of franchise here in Africa is generally frustrating and discouraging. Politicians in most African countries, especially the incumbents, already have a fixed result before the election time. So it's all a waste of time and resources over here. What a deception! But thank God there are few exceptions like- South Africa, Ghana, Senegal and Algeria. For my country, Nigeria, it's an eyesore.
Solomon Chinedum Onubuogu Accra-Ghana

My voting decision is largely influenced by the ideological leaning of a party, the character of the candidates presented for elections and equal access to media by all the candidates during campaigns.
Okoro, Felix Chinedu, Nigeria

The policies of most parties are almost around the same issues, one claiming they can do better than the other but not telling us how they will do it. I think I vote for personality , but majority of the voters, including myself, are always disappointed at the end because those we vote for fail to deliver.
Nelson Pelaelo-Sibanda, Botswana in Leeds.

My understanding of a candidate with a good personality is a person who is 100% willing to do whatever it takes to improve his/her country. This of course includes being honest, transparent and accountable.
Husein, Ethiopia

It can be both policies and personality. The two go hand in hand as day and night. They are inseparable. If you can a vote for a charming personality at least he can fool the masses by euphoria of good policies so as to be accepted for the other.
Mohammad Moustapha, Cameroon

Although I have not taken part in any major election before, there are basically two reasons that make most Africans including myself vote. The first one is threats from a candidate who must have either been in power through the barrel of the gun or had been a rebel or junta leader. The second one is that we vote because the candidate tells us that he would build a bridge even where there is no river! Without the above reasons, most elected African leaders would have overwhelmingly failed.
Monyoro Alex, Sudanese in Australia.

I only recently started voting, despite having reached voting age many years ago. Believe you me, African dictators have taken to using the ballot as the latest mechanism for entrenching themselves. I hope to beat them by the same ballot, though I have not completely abandoned the advantages of using the bullet. I don't trust the later though.
Moses Okello, Uganda

I am yet to find a party in Africa that has geared up for elections with realistic and meaningful policies. If any, there is usually one or two of which none may ever be implemented. I vote because I must keep the process going.
Isaac Wafula, Nakuru, Kenya

My voting could only go to that political entity that does not offer money or material things in return for votes especially in my country Nigeria. The party with a modest personality and policies that are genuinely grassroot based will attract my vote.
Christian Merenini, Nigeria

Of course, I would vote for a party's policies rather than personality. But having participated in two previous elections, parties do not fulfil their promises once you give them your vote. I strongly wish a clause in our country's constitution that empowers constituents to recall their underperforming Mps were brought back.
Anganile Mwangobola, Malawi

I shall be voting, if possible for a candidate who will be able to change the present conditions in my country. It is a sad point to say but I can not hide it, I have been eligible to vote for the past more than 10 years but have never voted. The complexity involves registering, finding your name on the register and finally voting, which has been keeping me away from voting.
Nfor Hadison, Cameroon

Voting in Cameroon is a funny issue and cumbersome at the same time because the government is inept, inertia, tribalistic and the so-call elite go to their respective areas of origin to rig elections in order to be appointed. And the procedure is not free, it's in fact anti-development, anti-democratic, the ruling class fear change, that is why people can't vote.
Ngalim Charles, Cameroon

If you don't vote, then you give up your right to complain about the policies of the winner.
Nick, South Africa

I, like many others, vote according to the political mood and climate in the country, and what the popular party is putting on the table to woe us.
Malinda Harrahs, Kenyan in Germany

I will always vote for the party I think has the best chance of replacing tribalism with national unity, poverty with prosperity, high crime with security. A party that delivers social justice and is committed to reforming my country and enhancing Third World solidarity. Sadly, I feel no such parties exist, Kenya's ruling NARC has made me disillusioned and bitter.
Haria, Kenya/UK

In Malawi politics, party policies are not significantly different from each other. Indeed most parties do not espouse any serious ideologies to manifest a clear policy and ideological distinction among them. With this in mind, personality, particularly that of a presidential candidate ought to be taken more seriously than party policies at the moment. It has been shown that a leader's personality tends to have more influence on the way government affairs are run. Weak personality in terms of morals and integrity, could for example be a recipe for corruption and lack of respect for the rule of law. It is therefore important that voters look at personality more seriously because policy implementation hinges on the personality of the leader.
Bernard Ntata, Malawi

I am over 24 years old, but I have never voted in any election. That will change only when votes count in who becomes a leader. Our elections unfortunately seem to provide another channel for questionable characters to hold on to power. Why do I have to sacrifice so much to legitimise their evil?
Tony Izuogu, Ghana (Nigerian)

In African politics, the most important voting factor has to be policies. Without policies, how can an individual be fit to run a country, in a continent where democracy is only paid lip service. Policies should be the deciding factor, in an election, as well as to a certain extent the individual's personality.
Mubarak Salah, United Kingdom

African elections? It is more like who is selected than elected. I no longer bother to vote.
Charles Okeke, Nigeria

If and when I vote, I do so based on the policies of the candidate in question. Unfortunately in Nigeria, corrupt politicians stifle the voice of the people. They use their ill- got wealth to influence the ballot result. Political pundits are already predicting that by 2007 Nigeria would be the only "democratic" county in the world where the elected government doesn't enjoy the confidence of the majority of the people.
Tom Ayeni, Nigeria

What is the need to vote in a country where rigging is the main instrument of getting to power? Whether you vote or you did not vote the rigger knows he will surely emerge as a winner. It is really frustrating to see your right undermined by selfish politicians, like in the case of Nigeria. You will feel very proud to vote in South Africa, where your vote counts so much and will have a positive impact on who becomes the next leader in your country.
Osuigwe Chukwuemeka, Nigerian at University of Natal in South Africa

Whom to vote for is a complex decision embracing gut feel, trust, self-interest, justice, culture, class etc. I voted for Patricia de Lille of the Independent Democrats, in South Africa's recent election because while I felt happy that the ANC would be the overwhelming majority and therefore the government, it would need a "nuisance" watchdog.
Vanessa, SA

We the people of this continent, Africa, should do away with 'personality' and tribal politics. It must be clear to us that politics is about policies and nothing else.
Kwaku Afriyie, Ghana

I find it difficult to understand why the electorate in most african countries vote along ethnic,religious and racial lines. Until we learn to vote for credible people, we will still have leaders who are corrupt, self-centred and inept. I vote according to the personality and credibility of the candidate. Parties in Nigeria hardly accomplish one tenth of what they have in their election manifesto.
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos Nigeria

Being a political animal anyway ,and having the right to franchise, when it comes to vote I do vote for good policies. In fact, when I pick up a manifesto of a political party, I go over it three times in the first instance and once every day so that I can totally and entirely digest it and see whether it suites not only my convenience but also that of the bulk of society. Anybody who refuses to vote has a question to answer over lack of national commitment and passiveness to determine the day to day running of his/her Government.
Sheku M. Jalloh, The Gambia

The reality of African politics is that it is not policies that win elections. It is catchy sloganeering, wild promises, personalities, and sadly, even tribal affiliations. The policy bit is put on just for the benefit of the urban elite who can't be bothered to assess them critically. In a continent where the vast majority of the voters are poor and illiterate, it is the bombarding of these people with T-shirts, bicycles, kerosene and the like that will hold sway. To the rural farmer, justice, the rule of law, press freedom and all those macro-economic policies might as well be Greek to him. He wants food on his table. So long as the African politician speaks the language of the people and appeals to them, he wins the elections.
Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng, Ghanaian in UK

Of course voting for a party with sound economic, environmental etc. policies is more productive than voting along ethnic or class alignment. However, democratic participation is based on one's right to vote according to his own sovereign right.
Ammanuel, US

In my country, it's usually the ethnic origin of the contesting candidate that counts. Ashanti, Ewe, Ga etc. But what influence my vote is what policies the candidate and the government has with respect to education and jobs.
Vivian, Ghanaian

Election is the best way to choose a candidate. In Africa most countries have pre-election systems. The people they just participate to vote even though they know who is going to be their leader the next day.
Alem, New York

Economic policies influence my voting but these days in Africa, your vote is just a waste because the strong politicians do the voting in their sitting rooms with a bottle of champagne.
Scott Odiase, Nigerian in Italy

I vote because it is an opportunity for me to express my feelings concerning the way the country has been handled and to choose other alternatives if need be. In Ghana, just like many other developing countries, the party manifestos hardly get implemented. The only manifesto that all developing countries share irrespective of whatever party is in power, is the one prescribed by the IMF and the World Bank. Though I desire to vote, I will not queue in the scorching sun or get soaked in the rain to vote! After all our elections boil down to the same thing, sending budgets and economic plans to Washington and New York for massaging an approval.
Issah Fuseini, Accra,Ghana

I would prefer personality because it goes with integrity. Any candidate must have trust and must be trusted. A bunch of criminal minded candidates can come up with good policies and at the same time steal the wealth of the country. The only way Africa can reach its full potential is by electing respectable people to run our affairs.
Akin Adebayo, USA

What can influence my vote in Cameroon? What a joke, talking about democracy in a third world nation! Anyway, after reviewing the empty policies of the candidates, their records as plunderers of resources, and their history of corruption and crime, I believe, I might vote for the candidate who offers me the biggest quantity of meat, the highest load of silverware and other kitchen utilities, and also the one who promises solemnly to hire my daughter who just graduated from university.
Steve, Cameroon

Personality determines where my vote goes. Policies can be as perfect as the word perfect but without the full commitment of the leader its useless as the word useless.
Augustine Iwuoha, Ghana

I pray that one day things will change in my country Cameroon where we are far from talking about true democratic elections. Most Cameroonians are tired of being fooled by politicians and their ever golden policy speeches to the extent that elections here have become either a formality or a ritual.
Mayua Killian Luchuo, Cameroon

I vote for the best party with the best program, policy, ideas for the country.
Delor Adams, USA

I commend good policies which will improve the lives of the ordinary person in the society. It is high time Africa leaders embraced purposeful leadership. We need policies which will bring succour to the needy. Leaders should come to lead not steal.
Desmond Abiodun Oji, Nigeria

I consider most the democratic principles of the party. The personalities of the candidate are least important unless the candidate has neo-patrimonial ideologies.
South Sudanese living in the U.S

I look at the policies of the party or candidate that I am going to vote for, especially the macro-economic policies.
Chidhadha Chibhanguza, South Africa

We don't need to sit on the fence whilst others vote, since whatever the outcome it affects the whole nation. Eligible voters must exercise their franchise on a better informed choice.
Darko Henry, Germany




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SEE ALSO:
Africans crazy for democracy
21 Apr 04  |  Africa



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