In Jakarta Election, Poll Watchdogs Are On Guard for Cheats
Poll watchdogs are warning about the potential for campaign violations in the lead-up to the Jakarta gubernatorial election next month, particularly on the part of the incumbent, Fauzi Bowo.
Ade Irawan, a senior researcher with Indonesia Corruption Watch, said on Monday that incumbents seeking re-election in regional elections typically had more potential sources for illegal funding than their rivals.
“Candidates can gather money from individuals and organizations, but incumbents also have access to funds from the regional budget,” he said.
“There are strong indications that many incumbents fund their campaigns primarily through the regional budget. It’s also quite common for them to manipulate development projects, activities and grant distributions in ways that are clearly meant to boost their popularity.”
Another unfair advantage for incumbents, Ade said, is their ability to rope the regional government into their campaign.
“The politicization of the bureaucracy typically starts a year before the elections,” he said. “Often lower-ranking officials are pressured [to support the incumbent] through the use of coercion and threats of transfer or firing.”
Another advantage for incumbents is the use of public service ads doubling as campaign ads, Jakarta Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) chairman Ramdansyah said.
Because the official window for campaigning is so narrow, taking place just two weeks before the poll, he said candidates would use all means available to raise their profile without appearing to be openly campaigning.
“Take, for instance, the billboards about the upcoming Jakarta anniversary, featuring Governor Fauzi Bowo,” Ramdansyah said. “If there’s no connection to the anniversary, then these are clearly campaign ads.”
He also cited the case of Golkar Party candidate Alex Noerdin, who took out a full-page ad in a Jakarta-only newspaper to talk about the success of his wi-fi Internet access program in South Sumatra, where he is governor.
“Admittedly, the 14-day campaign period is too short for the candidates to get their message across, so that’s why they’re taking advantage of the loopholes,” Ramdansyah said, adding that his office would not allow any blatant violations.
Another problem that watchdogs are warning about is the inevitable issue of vote-buying.
Refly Harun, an observer with the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro), said on Monday that while election regulations prohibited candidates from handing out cash in exchange for votes, many were giving out free food, clothing and other items.
ICW’s Ade said the issue of campaign funding was also a major point of concern.
Campaign laws limit donations by individuals to Rp 50 million ($5,300) and by organizations to Rp 350 million, but many candidates typically receive more and underreport the true amount, he said.
The six candidates for the Jakarta election are required to submit their funding reports to the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPUD) a day before the campaign period begins and again a day after it ends.