February 26, 2024

Expensive Election and Inequality of Contestation

In the 2009 Elections, Nielsen Advertising Service (2009) reported that the funding for electoral activities, especially campaigns, tended to increase. The 2009 Presidential Election led to a 108 percent increase in government and political spending. The campaign funds for presidential and vice-presidential candidates alone reached IDR 308 billion.

The trend continued into the 2019 Elections and increased dramatically. It was reported that the presidential and vice-presidential campaign of Joko Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin spent a total of IDR 606.7 billion, as reported to the LPPDK post. According to the KPU report, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) was recorded as the party with the highest expenditure, reaching IDR 345 billion.

Seeing the significant increase in election funds, a stigma has emerged – “money rules.” This stigma is felt to be true. Indeed, entering the circle of power often requires a considerable amount of money.

In the 2004 and 2009 Elections, Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) traced the list of campaign contributors in both legislative and presidential elections. The results revealed several anomalies in campaign fund reporting, including fictitious contributor identities, the method of splitting funds among various parties to avoid exceeding the donation limits, and contributions surpassing the financial capacity of the donors.

A report from 14 years ago still appears relevant to the 2024 Elections. On one hand, money can support the election process to ensure smooth operations without obstacles. However, on the other hand, money in elections is also susceptible to various violations such as corruption, money laundering, bribery, extortion, patron-client relationships, and others. All these violations occur to achieve the same goal: victory and specific gains.

It should be remembered that elections are one of the main pillars of a democratic state. If elections run smoothly, the goal of a successful change in government is more likely to be achieved. If we hope for an elected government to be one with integrity, an integral part cannot be separated, which is ensuring the integrity of the election process.

The challenge is that the phenomenon of escalating and unlimited dependence on financial capital can undermine the principles of democracy. The principles of equality and justice may disappear. According to Michael Pinto Duschinsky, quoted on the Electoral Knowledge Network website, there are two most serious threats currently faced by democracy, closely related to the financing of political parties and elections, especially campaigns.

First, there is special treatment for those who contribute a large amount of capital. We often hear terms like patron-client or quid pro quo politics. This is what will happen to wealthy individuals who contribute fantastic funds to election participants. Although there is no written agreement, it creates the perception that influence can be bought, and they will receive special favors in the future.

Second, it undermines the aspects of equality and fairness in democracy. Elections can only be participated in by those with abundant capital or those within the circle of wealthy entrepreneurs or supporters. A real example comes from Uncle Sam’s land, where Elizabeth Dole, a candidate for President of the United States from the Republican party, had to withdraw because she did not have enough funds for her campaign activities.

The Way Out

The increasing funding in this election raises concerns that democracy might be undermined by money. Especially in the campaign stage, participants pour significant amounts of money to win the people’s votes. One way to address this is by reforming the existing political finance system. Reform can be achieved by creating additional policies regarding campaign financing.

However, it is important to note that in creating these policies, what is called legal politics is needed. The aim is to guide the formation of regulations that support the conduct of elections. Essentially, elections aim to create fair competition among participants, whether individuals or political parties.

That role makes legal politics important. The goal of legal politics is to provide justice, legal certainty, and benefits. Therefore, the regulation of campaign funds must be designed to achieve these ideal goals. The regulation should also bring a sense of justice to the actors who will be affected by these rules.

Additionally, legal justice is important not only for participants. Another actor in the election, namely the voters, must have the right to know campaign funding transparently. Voters are the majority, the owners of democratic sovereignty.

Therefore, further legal regulations on campaign fund need to be established. These rules are expected to fill the gaps in election laws that do not specifically regulate campaign finances.

With legal certainty, it is hoped that the next elections will be ideal for all parties and, most importantly, create justice. The regulations that can be expected are those that can create affordable and cost-effective campaigns for all election participants. If not during the revision of election laws, when else can we reduce the rising trend of election campaign spending? []


Political Science Student at Padjadjaran University

Translated by Catherine Natalia