Partyforumseasia: With 240 million inhabitants, more than 13,000 islands, 300 native ethnic groups and 742 languages and dialects, stretching 5,000 km East to West, Indonesia’s national motto sounds suitable but difficult to achieve: “Unity in diversity“. By many different standards and criteria, the country may be the world champion in complexity. No wonder that the organization of Indonesia’s democratic system and elections is extremely complex as well. Like in many Southeast Asian countries money politics and vote-buying are far from unknown, on the contrary. Since the beginning of the democratic era after the fall of authoritarian President Suharto, huge amounts of money have been spent for securing a seat in parliament or other public office. Years ago already, the necessary budget for winning the governorship in an average province has been estimated at the equivalent of ten million USD!
Beside the development of an increasingly professional polling industry, demand has created rather professional jobs for people who know their constituency and the people living in it. They can tell the candidate who they decide to work for – and who can pay them – how many voters they can mobilize for her or him. What is mostly being done in other democracies in Europe by active party members, namely canvassing from street to street and door to door, has developed into a respectable profession in Indonesia.
While being realistic about the extent of direct vote-buying, Ulla Fionna from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore, has just published a fascinating insight into this flourishing business. Read in detail how these field coordinators (in Indonesian “koordinator lapangan” or “korlap” in the short form) have been instrumental in the 9 April elections: