Pricey Road to Senayan
Money politics is still widespread in legislative elections. Improvements are needed to the recruitment of candidates and to campaign tactics.
The political parties need to take a serious look at the results of the 2019 legislative elections, which were quite surprising. Money politics was still widespread, particularly in the regions. But nowadays the popularity of a candidate is not a guarantee of election to the House of Representatives (DPR).
Three ministers from the National Awakening Party (PKB) are predicted to have failed to be elected to Senayan. They are Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri, Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi, and Village Affairs, Development of Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Minister Eko Putro Sandjojo. Moreover, it is almost certain that Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin from the United Development Party (PPP) will not be reelected as a member of the DPR.
A number of popular figures are facing electoral failure, including Ferdinand Hutahaean from the Democrat Party and celebrity Tessa Kaunang from the National Democrat (NasDem) Party. Politicians Eva Sundari and Budiman Sudjatmiko from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) are also thought to have failed to be elected to Senayan. This phenomenon is an important lesson for the parties. Relying on famous people is no longer an effective way to fight legislative elections.
In this legislative election, another influential factor appeared: party affiliation with presidential candidates. The fact is that it is very difficult for legislative candidates to compete in regions known as areas of support for presidential candidates from rival political parties. And parties with the same basis as a presidential candidate they support will benefit more. This complication would occur even if every party could put forward a presidential candidate.
Competition in the legislative election was also more intense—and even more dirty—because money politics is still widespread. This was seen in the case of DPR member Bowo Sidik Pangarso who was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for corruption. It came to light that this Golkar politician had set aside billions of rupiah for a ‘dawn attack’ or vote buying in an electoral district in Central Java.
A number of other discoveries showed the same thing. Just before the election, police seized more than Rp1 billion in cash and party campaigning materials in a raid in Lamongan, East Java. The Pekanbaru Elections Supervisory Agency and the police also seized more than Rp506 million in the lobby of a hotel in Pekanbaru. This money was allegedly to be distributed to voters to encourage them to vote for a particular legislative candidate.
The political parties should work together to fight money politics. This practice increases the cost of politics. A 2014 study by the Policy Research Network and the University of Indonesia Economy and Society Research Board produced estimates for the cost of politics. In general, legislative candidates spend between Rp1.18 billion and Rp4.6 billion in the campaign. These funds are used for everything from printing banners to mobilizing crowds.
All political parties need to change their campaign tactics so the burden does not fall entirely on legislative candidates. For example, there could be joint campaigns by legislative candidates from the same party. And the parties must share some of the costs of legislative candidates’ campaigning. Like it or not, the parties must gather sufficient funds from legal sources, such as members subscriptions and donations.
The recruitment of legislative candidates also needs to be put right. It is time to put an end to the pragmatic way of trying to increase support by employing well-known people. Ideally, the parties should put forward members who are of quality and who have grassroots support, not simply roll out celebrities or candidates who have plenty of money.