40% of Regional Voters Demand Bribes, Survey Finds
Indonesia. Rampant vote-buying in regional elections is fueled by voters themselves, a survey shows.
“Forty percent of respondents said they would only vote for a candidate if they were paid to do so,” researcher Agus Herta Sumarto said at Tuesday’s publication of the survey.
The poll, conducted between May 20 and 25 by the Political Research Institute for Democracy, involved 400 respondents in Mojokerto, East Java.
According to the survey, vote-buying was in the form of cash or other incentives.
About 15 percent of respondents believed money was the single most important motivation for voting; 10 percent preferred contributions in the form of food or other basic commodities; 8.8 percent would vote for candidates who promised to build a road in their neighborhood; and 5.3 percent said they wanted candidates who could provide them with start-up capital for a business.
The study concluded that voters, “are getting used to, condoning and legitimizing the occurrence of vote-buying.”
Didik Rachbini, a political expert from Jakarta’s Paramadina University, said the study painted a worrying picture.
“The government’s relationship with the people has been reduced from a political contract to a monetary one,” he said.
Pride also analyzed the findings by demographics.
“More women than men demand money from the candidates,” Agus said.
Age and income were not factors, but education was.
“There’s an inversely proportional relation between a person’s education level and their tendency to demand money,” Agus said. “Basically, the less educated they are, the more likely they can be bought come election time.”
Only 10 percent of respondents with a associate degree or higher said they would vote for a candidate if bribed, while the figure was 47 percent among those with only a junior high school diploma.
Ironically, 65.5 percent of respondents quoted “honesty” as the quality they most admired in a candidate.
“The results are very contradictory,” Agus said. “They want an honest leader, but they want that leader to pay them for votes.”
Less than 6 percent believed it was important for a candidate to steer clear of graft, collusion and nepotism.
“It seems voters don’t associate honesty with freedom from corruption,” said A Rohim Ghazali, a senior researcher at Pride.
“As a case in point, five regional heads were re-elected recently, despite being named corruption suspects.”
They include Theddy Tengko, the district head of Aru Islands in Maluku province; Satono from East Lampung district; and Bengkulu Governor Agusrin Najamuddin.
“We shouldn’t legitimize the current crop of corrupt leaders,” Rohim said. “Let’s hope those candidates’ re-elections don’t encourage people to keep demanding money for their votes.”
The rampant cases of vote-buying, as well as expensive campaigns, politically motivated conflicts and election disputes are among the reasons recently cited by the government to justify a proposed end to direct regional elections.
Before 2004, regional heads were appointed by their respective regional legislatures.
“Returning to the old system, where the local legislature selects the regional head, won’t necessarily fix the system,” Rohim said.
Vote-buying would not go away. Rather, he said, it would shift from targeting voters to targeting local legislators, who are considered highly corrupt.