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Jakarta Post

KPK the disrupter

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, November 2, 2018   /   08:11 am
KPK the disrupter A group of activists stage on Thursday a rally in front of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) building in Kuningan, South Jakarta, 500 days after an acid attack against KPK investigator Novel Baswedan. (The Jakarta Post/Dhoni Setiawan)

Traditionally, the effective number of political parties usually depends on what type of electoral system is implemented in one particular country. A proportional system usually yields a greater number of parties while a first-past-the-post system will result in a smaller number of parties.

Indonesia is a unique case, where an intervening variable works alongside an electoral system to deliver a verdict on which political parties survive the tough political environment. Past experience shows that any political parties targeted by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in an antigraft probe could end up losing support from voters. And if this pattern was to continue, the National Mandate Party (PAN) should be worried about its prospects in the 2019 general election and other future elections, now that its senior politician Taufik Kurniawan, one of the deputy speakers at the House of Representatives, has been named a suspect in a graft case. 

The KPK has done this before and its effect could be devastating. The Democratic Party was once a significant force, which at the peak of its power, around the time when then-president Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono wrapped up his first term in 2009, got more than 20 percent of the vote in the general election, translating into 95 seats in the House. Soon after, the KPK launched a graft probe into some of the party’s most prominent politicians including party chairman Anas Urbaningrum, party treasurer Muhamad Nazarudin and celebrity-turned-lawmaker Angelina Sondakh. Five years later in the 2014 general election, the party only garnered 10 percent of the vote.

The Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) was once hailed as a beacon of hope, a reform-minded political party campaigning on good governance and transparency. In 2004, the party got more than 7 percent of the vote in the general election and was expected to get more in the future. In 2014, one year after party chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaq was arrested by the KPK, the party’s popularity plunged and it secured only 17 seats in the House, down from 38 seats in 2004. 

The Golkar Party, once an indispensable player in Indonesia’s politics, will likely follow the Democratic Party’s and the PKS’ road to ruin, especially after the KPK was successful in its efforts to put its once powerful leader Setya Novanto in prison. A survey conducted by Poltracking in the weeks after Setya was named a suspect by the antigraft body found that Golkar was trailing behind the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Gerindra Party with an approval rating of a little over 10 percent.

A new survey in September this year paints a bleak picture for political parties contesting the 2019 general election, with at least five major political parties likely failing to meet the 4 percent threshold to send its representatives to the House. Included on the list of the endangered political parties are the PKS and PAN, which were expected to get 4 percent and 2 percent of the popular vote respectively.

It is undeniable that the KPK has played its hand effectively in driving them to extinction, on account of their own dabbling greedily in public money.