Published daily by the Lowy Institute

When it rains, it pours political aid in Jakarta

When it rains, it pours political aid in Jakarta
Published 28 Jan 2014 

Heavy rains since the new year have brought flooding to Jakarta and an opportunity for candidates to do some clandestine campaigning before the upcoming legislative and presidential elections.

Candidates who distribute money, goods or food to flood victims for political benefit are in violation of a 2012 election law, but attempts at vote-buying remain widespread in Jakarta and across Indonesia. Local media have reported several instances of aid being distributed with political attributes by representatives of some of the 15 parties taking part in the legislative elections on 9 April.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Golkar Party, Hanura, Democratic Party, Gerindra and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) among others are alleged to have distributed aid under party banners. One news site reported that parties hoping to impress the people while avoiding the glare of the media took to distributing aid 'like guerrillas in the night'.

The most publicised case of aid campaigning involved the Islamist PKS party, accused of slapping stickers promoting its legislative candidate Wirianingsih onto boxes of biscuits provided by the Health Ministry. Social media users were quick to criticise the move, saying it was particularly hypocritical coming from a religious-based party.

With reactions like this, political parties may be forced to try more sophisticated campaign methods towards the upcoming elections. [fold]

A recent survey by The Asia Foundation found that while many voters are happy to accept cash and gifts from political parties, this does not necessarily translate into votes. Of the respondents, 40% said they would accept such offers, but 64% said they believed that candidates engaged in vote-buying would likely make corrupt officials.

Increasingly, it is politicians who run clean campaigns who pull in the votes on election day. Which means the parties taking advantage of the floods today may find three months from now that voters are saying 'so long and thanks for all the flood aid.'

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