Money Politics in Local Elections

The national broadsheet Kompas reported comments from Constitutional Court Judge, Akil Mochtar, and Commission II member, Arif Wibowo, on the pervasiveness and negative effect of “money politics” or vote buying on Indonesia’s democracy.

Akil indicated that in a recent election in Waringin Barat City in Central Kalimantan, the Sugianto and Eko Sumarno ticket paid as much as Rp. 150-200,000 ($16-21) per “volunteer”:

“In general almost all candidates practice this [vote buying], only the method is different.  The goal is to influence voters so that they are elected” said Akil while attending a seminar on elections in Jakarta, Wednesday (25/01/2012).

“[The Sugianto and Eko Sumarno ticket] made arrangements to inappropriately pay people to volunteer in the campaign team. This is done by giving a volunteer certificate of the candidate to citizens together with Rp. 150 thousand – 200 thousand,” he explained.

“Pada umumnya hampir semua pasangan calon melakukan praktek ini (vote buying), hanya cara-caranya berbeda. Tujuannya untuk mempengaruhi pemilih, agar memilihnya,” jelas Akil dalam menghadiri seminar mengenai pilkada di Jakarta, Rabu (25/1/2012).

“Pasangan ini melakukan persiapan pendanaan secara tidak wajar untuk membayar warga yang menjadi relawan dalam tim kampanye. Hal ini dilakukan dengan memberikan sertifikat relawan pasangan calon urut nomor 1 kepada warga diserta dengan uang Rp 150 ribu – Rp 200 ribu,” jelasnya.

While Arif suggested it had become as widespread as a cultural practice and therefore very difficult to crackdown using the tools of law enforcement:

“Money politics has become a cultural practice.  If the government were to crackdown, there would be thousands of people who would be arrested.  While those who have received (money) includes tens of thousands.  I could argue that money politics has become a cultural practice that is not easy to tackle with laws.  I am confident to say that all elections involve money politics.  This is a chronic problem,” said Arif.

“Money politic ini jadi budaya. Kalau pemerintah mau tegakkan, ada ribuan orang yang mungkina akan ditangkap. Yang menerima juga puluhan ribu. Saya bisa menunjuk bahwa politik uang jadi budaya yang tidak mudah untuk ditegakkan secara hukum. Semua pilkada, saya berani mengatakan tidak ada yang tidak menggunakan uang. Ini masalah yang paling kronis,” pungkas Arif.

Regional corruption often has its origins in election campaigns.  Some of my informants from Central Java indicated that candidates must expend at least Rp. 10 billion (about $1.1 million) to become Bupati.  Those who win–and those who lose, but continue to hold positions in government–need to recoup these costs somehow and generally this involves corruption or extortion of one form or another.

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