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Expand chart
Data: Election Commission of India; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

India’s Election Commission has confiscated more than $474 million worth of drugs, alcohol, cash and gold that politicians intended to distribute to voters.

Why it matters: The seizures expose the deep-rooted culture of vote buying in the world's largest election. With 17 days still to go in the staggered elections, the value of the seizures is already 2.5 times higher than the total from 2014.

Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment said this could be India's costliest election ever, with parties spending some $7 billion.

  • "Most of the money that fuels Indian elections is so-called 'black money' that is transmitted off-the-books to avoid the prying eyes of the Election Commission," he says. "Although there are strict limits on how much candidates can spend, there are innumerable ways that politicians can skirt the rules."
  • "One of the biggest expenses candidates incur is the distribution of cash, liquor, and other inducements on the eve of polling. This practice of 'gift-giving' does not necessarily guarantee victory, but it signals a candidate’s largesse and is widely accepted as the cost of doing business in Indian elections."

The big picture: India has completed four out of seven phases of polling, with final results expected on May 23. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking another term.

Go deeper: Viral lies spread before Indian and Indonesian elections

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.