The democratic festivity is routinely resume after the announcement of the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates from three different axes. Various electoral dramas have unfolded and will continue until the official decision by the General Election Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum or KPU) declares the winners. Of course, by obtaining a majority vote of 50% plus and by winning 20% of the vote in each province which is spread across more than half of the number of provinces in Indonesia, in accordance with Article 416 of Law 7/2017 on General Elections.
All the strengths and resources possessed by each candidate will be utilized to secure victory in the 2024 Elections. There are numerous political science terms that can be used to depict the conditions related to past and current elections, such as patronage, clientelism, political dynasties or patrimonialism, and “pork barrel politics.” Almost all of them share the same substantial meaning, which is leveraging power resources to win and maintain their own power.
The term “political corruption” refers to the activities directed by politicians towards the public, utilizing public funds with the aim that the public will ultimately lend support to a specific politician/candidate. This practice is not something new. Its tangible forms include allocating budgets from both central and regional governments to support populist policy programs such as social assistance, grants, public works projects, and Direct Cash Assistance (Bantuan Langsung Tunai or BLT) or Temporary Direct Assistance to the Community (Bantuan Langsung Sementara Masyarakat or BLSM).
The practice of political corruption is actually a political strategy in itself for those who can use government budgets to maintain their power by winning the hearts of voters. This not only happens at the grassroots level but also involves village heads, village officials, and local strongmen who wield significant influence in general elections.
In 2023, there was a surge of regents and governors distributing motorcycles to various village heads. For example, the Regent of Wonogiri distributed 294 red-colored N-MAX motorcycles to village heads and neighborhood heads, amounting to IDR 9.408 billion. There was also a regent in Jepara who distributed 184 red-colored N-MAX motorcycles with a total budget of IDR 5.8 billion. Additionally, the Governor of Jambi distributed 215 N-MAX motorcycles to village heads.
From this, it is evident that village heads and their staff are the most vulnerable institutions in the efforts of politicians and political parties to mobilize public support at the grassroots level. The provision of such facilities is undoubtedly aimed at gaining reciprocal support for regents, governors, presidents, and even political parties that will compete in the upcoming elections.
Furthermore, if we look nationally in 2019, there was a 40% increase in the budget for social assistance (bantuan sosial or bansos) from the state budget (APBN), from IDR 36 trillion to IDR 50 trillion. This is highly vulnerable to politicization by the instruments of power because at that time, Joko Widodo was entering his second term in the presidential election. It is clearly stated in every social assistance package, “Assistance from the President against COVID-19,” not “Assistance from the State against COVID-19.” This narrative seems to create the impression that the aid is provided by Joko Widodo. In reality, the aid uses the state budget, which comes from the people’s money as well.
Bansos is often used as a political tool in every election, from the regional to the national level. Therefore, it is not surprising that leading up to the elections, there is a significant increase in the allocated budget from the state budget (APBN) for bansos. In 2024, the government increased the budget allocation to IDR 157.3 trillion, which means an additional 7.4% or equivalent to IDR 10.8 trillion from the realized outlook of bansos in 2023.
The politicization of bansos is starting to become apparent little by little. It began with the framing by Trade Minister Zulkhifli Hasan during the campaign, stating that the one providing bansos and direct cash assistance (BLT) is Jokowi. In reality, this is a state provision originating from the APBN allocation obtained from the people’s taxes. This was immediately responded to by other presidential and vice-presidential candidates, urging not to politicize bansos as a campaign tool. Moreover, some proposed a postponement of distributing bansos until the end of the 2024 Elections process.
The politicization of bansos in elections actually violates electoral laws. Election laws prohibit the abuse of authority in forming programs or activities that are oriented to benefit or harm any of the existing candidate pairs. It is clear that capitalizing on bansos by incorporating the name of the incumbent candidate pair, party, and anything related to partisan attributes actually violates the law, especially with the recent widespread distribution of motorcycles to village heads and their officials in various regions.
Ma’aruf Amin also made an interesting statement. According to the vice president, the increase in the budget for bansos is actually an effort to alleviate poverty in Indonesia. He stated that the budget boost for the improvement of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (UMKM) should be prioritized in efforts to enhance the welfare of the society.
Bansos is a shortcut for politicians and political parties in Indonesia, preserved from one period to another. The public voice is not earned through ideas and the nation’s ideals of enlightening the nation, but rather through bansos gimmicks and false promises. This is certainly regrettable because those in power tend to exploit the majority with low levels of education and poverty as political commodities every five years. 
ASYRAF AL FARUQI TUHULELE
Postgraduate student at the Department of Politics and Government, Gadjah Mada University (DPP UGM). Researcher at Leader of Indonesia, Universitas Muhammadiyah Jakarta (UMJ)
Translated by Catherine Natalia