Cold hard cash seems to be the most effective ticket to the Jakarta governor's office. We can only lament the fact when it becomes news linked to the upcoming election of the Jakarta governor. Organizations such as Indonesia Corruption Watch claim to have received dozens of complaints about money politics during the race that leads to the capital city's top job.
These dirty practices are predicted to continue until polling day, and even when the votes are being counted. The usual method is vote-buying using money or groceries or other means. Some provide allowances to volunteers, others give out prizes, like pilgrimages to Mecca. The incumbent has even been accused of politicizing the bureaucracy by misusing state facilities while piggybacking on regional government advertising on banners and on television.
Television commercials are expensive, and only rich candidates can make use of them. This magazine has calculated that if one ad spot in the campaign costs Rp20 million, the Fauzi Bowo-Nachrowi ticket, who have appeared on screen most often, would have spent around Rp28 billion. Candidates with fat wallets, such as Alex Nurdin-Nono Sampono, can compete on television to an extent, but non-party rivals such as Faisal Basri-Biem Benjamin can only grind their teeth in frustration.
This power of money is clearly far from being a healthy competition. The disparity of wealth between the candidates means there is no level playing field. On television screens, the ample resources of the Foke team brings privileges denied to other candidates. Campaign ads on television should be in line with Law No. 32/2004 on Regional Government, which states that every candidate has the same opportunity to place commercials on television. When the opportunity to use publicly-owned airwaves is open only to candidates with huge financial resources, then clearly, the situation is most unfair.
There must be a regulation requiring all incumbents running for office as governor, regent or mayor to step down from his or her position. This is important to avoid allegations of politicizing the bureaucracy or taking the opportunity to abuse the position of a regional executive by involving the bureaucracy. The temptation faced by executives seeking reelection is to spend regional budgets or funds, especially those allocated for social assistance programs, which are prone to abuse.
This flawed practice is highly risky. The incumbent referred to could be jailed for up to six months and fined albeit only for a maximum of Rp1 million. The Regional Government Law stipulates that bureaucrats or regional officials who are impartial during regional elections can face criminal charges. State officials holding structural or functional positions, and village chiefs who deliberately make decisions or actions that favor or disadvantage a candidate can be jailed for six months and fined.
Therefore the oversight system must be made more stringent. The existing rules still allow for donations of unclear origin. Candidates can camouflage donations in various ways. There are still many fictitious supporters, candidates who deposit funds as if they were from their personal accounts, but which actually come from financial backers, or which exceed the limit on donations as they come from one individual. It is still easy to find ways around the restrictions applied by the Jakarta General Elections Commission.
The six gubernatorial candidates have every right to campaign as actively as they like in order to garner public support. But they must do so in a dignified, transparent and accountable manner. Only candidates who say no to money politics and who are prepared to have their contributions audited, deserve to be voted in to office. Given the destructive consequences of money politics, the Constitutional Court could use it as a reason to disqualify an election winner, not only for systematic, structural or large-scale violations, but also for accepting contributions from illegal sources.
No. 46/12, July 10, 2012