Accepted Paper:

Secret ballot and clientelistic practices on the MInho border: comparison of two ethnographic cases - Galiza and Northern Portugal  
Paulo Jablonski Garcia (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

We analyse the relation between electoral processes in two ethnographic cases (Galiza and northern Portugal) that present different voting models, administrative division and recent political history, and the existence of clientelistic practices and their effect on the secret ballot voting system.

Paper long abstract:

The relation between electoral processes in two ethnographic cases that present different voting models, administrative division, and recent political history with the existence of clientelistic practices and its incidence in the secret ballot voting system is the purpose of this paper.

The ethnographic data that is introduced is the result of fieldwork in two different towns in Galiza and Northen Portugal. Fieldwork was not continuous, but carried out in three different periods of four to eight months long for a total of 16 months between 2003 and 2006. The study cases are sited in the same geographical location, the Minho border between Galiza and Northern Portugal. This data is part of the empiric corpus for my doctorate thesis in Social and Cultural Anthropology about Clientelistic Relations in Formal Democracies.

In the first place, in order to contextualise the comparison, an introductory description of the two cases will be discussed, followed by a description of two local election processes pointing out three main aspects :

1. The confection of the list of candidates, paying attention to its historical frame which will permit an understanding of the particular conception of the political-electoral space in each locality.

2. The electoral campaign, which will address the aspects of the mechanism of the candidates-electorate relation.

3. Election day, which will bring out clues about the connections between secret ballot and clientelistic practices.

This analysis of the electoral process pretends to prove that, in the studied contexts, a secret ballot is necessary but not sufficient as a mechanism for free and unfettered political choice. The variables that are established through personal relations (clientelistic or not), within and outside of the electoral game, act as mechanisms of vote control and, as a result, override the bureaucratic-legal frame of formal democracies.

Panel W065
Cultures of voting: ethnographies of the secret ballot