The Hydra of Money Politics in Indonesia

The ancient Greeks had powerful images and myths, and they were concerned about the gap between rich and poor as a threat to social cohesion and stability. When Heracles had to fight the Hydra, a serpent-like water monster, he found that for each severed head of the beast two new ones were growing instantly. HydraThe image can be applied to many real life situations, but certainly very well to money politics in Southeast Asia in general and to vote buying in Indonesia in particular.
In the aftermath of the Indonesian elections on April 9, and the official vote counting coming to an end by now, especially disappointed losers among the candidates feel cheated and go public.One was sending her assistants to take back gas stoves and other gifts from her “unreliable” voters. But it is not only the voters:
In Pasuruan, East Java, a losing Gerindra Party candidate blew the whistle on 13 election officials she had given money to, to help inflate the number of votes she got, after it turned out the money had no effect. Ms Agustina Amprawati said she gave them 117 million rupiah (S$12,800) in all for each of them to add 5,000 to 8,000 votes to her tally.
“I’m prepared for the consequences,” she told reporters at the local election commission. “I am ready to go to jail with the 13 officials who have cheated and promised a win and additional votes.” All 13 officials have been relieved of their duties.” (Straits Times, Singapore, 27 April)
The article is also quoting Ms Wahidah Suaib, a former member of the national election supervisory board (Bawaslu), as saying that “Money politics in this election is massive, vulgar and brutal compared to previous elections. People have become very permissive and this is done blatantly.” Vote buying is illegal of course but extremely difficult to control. So far, 62 candidates are being investigated for election irregularities.
Elections remaining one of the rare opportunities for the poor to be taken seriously and getting some gifts or money, fighting vote buying will remain a true Herculean task, not only in Indonesia.