February 23, 2024

Minimal Election

The electoral process needs to be re-formulated so that it can minimize the role of state in it. There is a prevalent misconception among policy makers in Indonesia that they think they should pass more laws in order to improve the quality of election process. As the consequence, state’s intervention in election has been more and more increased. Much like what has happened in many other aspects of the life in Indonesia, the state has become more authoritarian and freedom has become a rare thing to find.

One of the malignant interventions by the state in elections is the requirement for political party to at least have office building for their local branch if they wish to participate in election. In addition, in the political party laws, the government also requires any citizen to establish office building in 100 percent of province in Indonesia, in 75 percent of regency/municipality, and 50 percent of sub-district if he/she wants to form a political party.

As the direct consequence of this kind of policy, Indonesian elections have become so pricey for most people who intended to participate in it. Only the rich can “buy” participation. Political party needs to have so much money in order to have office building in 100% province, 75% regency/municipality, and 50% sub-district. The term “the people” in the slogan “democracy is a system from, for, and by the people” has been replaced by “the riches and elites”.

Indonesian election is also expensive not only for political party, but also for individual candidate. Our constitution has practically shut down the chance for any person not affiliated with political party to be a member of the parliament, either at national level or local area. Any person who wish to be a parliament member should ask an established political party to promote them by paying a certain amount of money. The higher he/she pays, the bigger the chance political party will put him/her as the number one candidate on the party’s list of candidates.

State intervention is also rampant not only in legislative elections, but also in executive (presidential and local) elections. Any presidential candidate must come from a political party or a coalition of parties that possess no less than 20 percent of parliamentary seats. Furthermore, in the new Elections Law Bill, the minimum age requirement for presidential candidate (and his/her vice candidate) will be increased from 35 to 40.

The Equality Fallacy

Other than restricting the freedom to participate in election (by saying that it’s meant to improve the quality of candidates), the government is also restricting the freedom to express political support by limiting the amount of financial aid we can provide to political party or candidate. For this, the government say that it’s meant to create equality among participants and fair electoral competition. If financial contribution for party/candidate is unregulated, the government might say, then the election will be dominated by party/candidate who receive the most money.

This is simply a fallacy. Unequal competition will not be obliterated by regulating financial support, but the same regulation will surely restricting the freedom to express support. True freedom does not need regulation that discriminates against different classes of financial ability. It is discriminatory of the state if they think rich people will always exploit their financial superiority to further their unscrupulous interests, while poor people are victimized saints because they have no financial power.

The free and fair principle will become irrelevant if all policy makers have this unjustified bias against the riches. Policy makers should have no prejudice against the riches nor the poor. They should be neutral.

Intervention in electoral campaign finance has resulted in fake transparency. Many political parties submit doctored financial statement in order to obey the campaign financial rules. During campaign period, we often see unruly display of posters and other attributes in public spaces, blatant money politics, but the total expenditures submitted by party/candidate on their financial statement is always less than the price of the car driven by the same candidate to go to the election management body (EMB) office to submit that financial statement.

Election process costs a lot of money. This is because democracy, as a governmental system from, for, and by the people, intends to involve as many people as it can.

As the consequence, democracy will always face the challenge to provide a free yet non-discriminatory political contest and competition. On behalf of the people, democracy should be able to accommodate the interests of the poor. Also, on behalf of the people, democracy should also be able to accommodate the interests of the riches.

We have to consider the amount of money received by political party/candidate as a sign of support from “the people”, also as an indicator of the quality of programs offered by the party/candidate. Good programs will beget more supports and more money. If a political program reflects the interests of the majority, the bigger amount of supports and money will be provided voluntarily. We can see the Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) and Joko Widodo supporters during the 2014 Elections as examples.

We need minimal elections that put freedom first. The government does not need to limit participation because it only causes the election become more expensive and discriminatory. Out of 73 political parties registered in the Ministry of Home Affairs’ database, more than 80 percent of them are unable to participate in election. As the consequence, there is no diversity of political ideology in Indonesia. There is only one: moneyism.

The government should also never limit financial support from voters to political party/candidate. The National Democratic Party (NasDem) and the Indonesia Unity Party (Perindo) are two parties with the highest campaign expenditures, but we all know for sure that both party will never win (parliamentary) election. Prabowo Subianto has spent so much money and time campaigning but he never win an election. If the quality of our election is superb, there will be a lot of public support/participation and high money circulation. And if public support/participation and money circulation are high, it is an indicator that the programs offered by election participants are in sync with the interests of the people. []