'Vote-buying' in poetry contest

Allegations of vote-buying are casting a cloud over the results of the great Arabic TV poetry contest which ended earlier this month.

Nasser al-Ajami, a Kuwaiti, walked away with the the top prize of $1.36m. But it has now emerged that victory came at a price: his tribe spent millions of dinars [1KD = $3.46] organising votes in his support.

According to The National, Mishal bin Hethlain, a leading sheikh of the Ajami tribe, "co-ordinated a fundraiser to persuade wealthy members of the tribe to donate":

The money was used to raise al-Ajami’s profile in the media and send bulk text messages through the country’s telecommunications companies to encourage Kuwaitis to vote.

Some tribesmen ... said the bin Hethlain family distributed grants worth hundreds of dinars among the tribe to cover the costs of the text votes; others who attended were happy to pay out of their own pockets.

"I voted about 400 times, which cost me about 200 dinars ($700)," said Naif al Ajami, 38, a detective at the ministry of interior. He said he was keen to give his support to al-Ajami because although “he isn’t my cousin, he is closely related to me”.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 19 April 2010.