Indonesia requires parties to 'educate' voters

Bagus BT Saragih in Jakarta/The Jakarta Post
Asia News Network

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - The Indonesian government has issued a regulation obliging political parties to spend at least 60 per cent of assistance funds received from the state budget on voter education programmes.

The regulation requires parties to launch campaigns to educate voters on the democratic process and on the specifics of their policy platforms, with a goal of encouraging a more active democracy and discouraging transactional politics and a reliance on celebrity politicians.

Apung Widadi, a political corruption analyst from the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), said that he welcomed the regulation, despite its flaws.

"One part of the new regulation that we should applaud is that the Supreme Audit Agency [BPK] is now obliged to conduct strict and tight audits of political parties," Widadi said. "This is significant. We have learned from research that almost all nine parliamentary political parties have failed to demonstrate transparent and accountable bookkeeping."

Widadi noted that the regulation lacked monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. "It's a shame [....] Political parties can just ignore the regulation without having to worry about possible sanctions."

Government Regulation (PP) No. 83/2012, which was signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono earlier this month, amends PP No. 5/2009, according to a press release from the Cabinet secretary.

According to the 2011 Political Parties Law, parties are entitled to annual grants from the central and regional governments.

The amount of the "assistance funding" is based on the number of votes that individual parties received in the prior national or regional election, and the parties' number of seats in the House of Representatives and regional legislative councils.

Political parties receive only meagre funding from the central government. In 2010, for instance, Yudhoyono's Democratic Party received 2.34 billion rupiah (US$248,040) from the state coffers, while the Golkar Party received 1.62 billion rupiah and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) received 1.57 billion rupiah.

Earlier this year, the ICW released a report that said that parties had spent the assistance funds, which come from taxpayers, recklessly and without accountability.

Senior leaders of several of the nation's leading parties said they welcomed the regulation.

PDI-P lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari said that the party had always allocated its assistance funds for political education and training programmes.

"The new regulation is very good for the regeneration of our members, even though we actually also need the money for our daily operations," Sundari told The Jakarta Post via a text message.

Abdul Malik Haramain of the National Awakening Party (PKB) said that the PKB was ready to make political education a priority in its next fiscal year.

"Political education must continue, especially since the public tends to have the incorrect perception that political parties are busy only during the times before the election," he said.

Meanwhile, United Development Party (PPP) secretary-general Romahurmuziy said that the PPP had been consistent in allocating funds for education programmes.

Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) political analyst Kuskrido "Dodi" Ambardi said that mandatory political education were needed as some parties grew increasingly pragmatic, doing away with ideology and focusing only on fund raising.

"The public has lost trust in political parties, as these organisations don't respond to their needs anymore," Dodi said.

A trend to nominate movie starts and celebrities for high office indicated that parties have been reluctant to educate voters, according to the analyst.

"This shows that parties will resort to any means just to gain votes," he said.

Parties have been reluctant to account for the money the receive from the state budget.

In September, the ICW released a report that said that only a handful of political parties had fulfilled legal requirements to provide financial reports upon request.

The parties holding seats in the House that provided the ICW with financial reports were the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), the PDI-P, the People's Conscience Party (Hanura) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

The non-compliant parties were identified as Golkar, the PKB and the National Mandate Party (PAN).

US$1 = 9627.5 Indonesian rupiah