Vote for the Empty Box
Coalitions of parties are forcing unopposed sole candidates on voters in elections for a number of regional heads. This damages democracy and fosters corruption.
THE maneuvers by a number of political parties in proposing sole candidates for elections in a number of regional elections could damage our democracy. By forcing through these sole candidates, the political parties are taking away the right of people to choose the best leaders. Healthy competition in the election of local politicians will also disappear.
It is likely that a total of 31 candidates will be competing against an empty box on the ballot paper in the 270 areas holding regional elections on December 9. Among them is the son of President Joko Widodo, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is running for mayor of Solo, Central Java. Another is the son of Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, Hanindhito Himawan, who is hoping to become regent of Kediri, East Java.
There are twice as many sole candidates this year as stood in the 2018 regional elections. This did not happen by accident. These sole candidates did not appear simply because they are the best people for the job, so there was nobody else fit to stand against them. It was entirely due to coalition of parties not providing any opportunities for alternative candidates.
The way the parties built these coalitions shows the power of the political cartels. The parties have become very pragmatic, if not permissive, in forming coalitions. Differences of ideology, vision, mission or program of the candidates are no longer important. All the parties want is power and victory. If they cannot win on their own, the cartel parties share out power among themselves.
It is no surprise to see parties that were rivals in the presidential election later joining together in elections for regents or mayors. In Solo, for example, all the parties except the Justice and Prosperity Party have come together to nominate Gibran. The same happened in Kediri, the parties with the most seats all agreed to nominate Hanindhito.
When nominating candidates, the cartel parties do not even care about the aspirations of their members. Party managers nominate whoever has the nerve to pay the ‘dowry’, who has connections in the elite circle of power, or who is willing to share out projects after being elected. The political ties that several grass root candidates have nurtured with the voters are simply ignored. The recruitment of party members and caderization is openly wrecked. Party managers hijack regional elections for their own economic or political gains.
The disadvantages of sole candidates do not stop with the election. Cartel parties in general do not allow elected regional heads to work as they should. In order to stay in power, regents and mayors who have no following grassroots listen more to the aspirations of the party’s leaders than to those of the people. This is what happened in a number of corruption cases involving regional heads and politicians from various parties. As a result, as well as weakening democracy, the political cartels foster corruption.
Ordinary voters must unite to punish these cartel parties. If they failed in pushing for an independent, non-party candidates, then they should campaign together to vote for the empty boxes in the elections where there is only one candidate.