Election Series: Want to run? Show me the money first

When applicants to be legislative candidates for the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) were interviewed, one of the questions they were asked was “Do you have enough money to run?” a Jakarta branch official said.

“Maybe they don’t have money. Or they do, but they borrowed it from someone,” said Syarif, the secretary of Gerindra’s Jakarta chapter. They should have their own money “because they have to order flags and T-shirts for their own campaign.”

It has often been said that politicians and elected leaders get involved in graft to pay off the debts incurred during their campaigns.

Running in an election costs money. Excluding the vote buying that sometimes besmirches elections, candidates need money to travel, put up banners and posters, order T-shirts, etc. “For people to know who they are, candidates have to campaign. Coffee for their team is the minimum expectation,” Syarif said.

“We ask candidates how many votes they expect to win and to calculate the cost of reaching that number of people,” he said.

Gerindra has yet decided how much money each candidate needs for the race. Syarif estimates that candidates running for local legislative bodies will need at least Rp 100 million (US$ 10,000), with that figure rising to about Rp 300 million for those running for the House of Representatives (DPR). Syarif said the costs were also needed to ensure the maximum presence and performance of party observers on voting day.

Former student activist Hendra Gunawan, cofounder of the Jabodetabek University Students Community Forum (Forkot) that helped topple Soeharto, reckons that having a lot of money does not necessarily determine the election result. “A lot of people perceive running for office to be very costly,” he said. Hendra is running for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and tells of another candidate who spent Rp 20 billion on campaigning but failed to win a seat. Hendra did not mention how much he will spend on his campaign.

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) West Jakarta branch secretary Agung Setiarso said that the Islamic party receives donations from its widespread Koran reading groups. “We can raise Rp 1 million in each meeting,” Agung said. He also said that each neighborhood branch of the PKS usually has an election fund.

“Since most of the candidates are chosen by the membership, they automatically have to support their candidate,” Agung said. Agung is running for the Jakarta council, and he said that the party and the members would help him.

Prodita Sabarini and Sebastian Partogi, The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Tue, April 09 2013

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