National

Money-driven elections
serve to perpetuate corruption:
Experts

Political parties are facilitating corruption in the country, with most politicians practicing money politics to get themselves elected, according to political and financial observers.

They said the money-driven nature of electoral campaigns in the country had perpetuated a system where corruption was ubiquitous in politics.

Habibie Center researcher Sumarno estimated that an aspiring politicians needed approximately Rp 4 billion (US$419,508) to be elected to the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) coordinator Danang Widoyoko said that politicians used this money to pay their way into office.

“A politician may want to pay a survey institution to make them look good, by twisting poll data to make it look as if they’re the ones most likely to win,” Danang said at a discussion in Jakarta on Friday.

Politicians who eye non-parliamentary positions, such as the heads of regional administrations, also needed money to win votes and be elected.

“Based on our research, what often happens in things like regional elections is that these politicians go to ID card brokers and spend billions on buying local votes,” Sumarno said.

Politicians who don’t go out of their way to buy votes are often still forced to pay for votes whether they want to or not.

“There are farming villages in which residents expect politicians to pay them. In these places, elections are carried out after planting and before harvest, which is a period when these people have no money. So they expect politicians to pay them,” Sumarno said.

This money-based system apparently leads politicians of all stripes to compete for the highest amount of financial capital.

It also often results in political parties becoming corrupt. Those who have the money can afford to pay party elites to help them gain power, a process that creates political cartels. “Much worse, it creates a system of oligarchy and dynasty in politics, which is not democratic,” Danang said.

This system is the main reason why Indonesia was ranked 100th in the 2011 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), far behind other Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia, which ranked 5th, 44th and 60th respectively.

Earlier this year, Transparency International Indonesia (TII) stated that based on TII surveys conducted in many regions over the past three years, most politicians and political parties had been acting as rent seekers in executive and legislative bodies.

This has led to costly political campaigns and increasing party expenditures for legislative elections and local polls.

So far, 17 governors and hundreds of regents, mayors and councilors have been held up as suspects for manipulating general fund allocations from the state budget, non-budgetary funds and for issuing public policies to benefit their party cartels.

The cartel phenomenon emerges when political party elites function as rent seekers hunting for non-budgetary funds in ministerial portfolios, legislative budgets and state-owned enterprises to meet their financial requirements.

ICW research into public opinion similarly indicates that the nation views corruption as its most pressing problem, with legislature being the institution considered most corrupt.

But despite this national consensus on a diagnosis, a cure is nowhere in sight.

Analysts said that little could be done to fight corruption aside from stronger crackdowns, better preventative regulations and bureaucratic reforms.

Didi Irawadi, a House Commission III lawmaker overseeing legal affairs and human rights, suggested that Indonesia should look to European countries as a cultural model for the nation to follow, specifically referring to Germany, which was ranked 14th in the 2011 CPI.

“We still have difficulties enforcing reforms, thanks to cultural problems in mindsets and work ethics,” Didi said. (png)

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