Jakarta – Kalimantan Islamic University (Uniska) political observer Muhammad Uhaib As’ad says that the democratic process in Indonesia post reformasi – the political reform process that began in 1998 – is still being held hostage by the power of money.
The consequence of this is that regional heads being elected in regional elections (Pilkada) are simply assistants (pembantu) or “errand boys” (kacung) for the oligarchy at the both the local and national level.
As’ad said that it is quite possible that the regional heads elected in the upcoming 2020 simultaneous regional elections will have the same character.
“Actually, the regional heads elected in these Pilkada, actually they’re just puppets, errand boys, who are controlled by the local or national oligarchy”, said As’ad during a webinar held by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) on Wednesday July 29.
According to As’ad, the high cost for candidates to take part in elections is one of the indicators that democracy is being held hostage by the power of capital.
With these high costs, he said, only people or institutions with the power of big capital can take part in elections. Democracy does not permeate down to the grass roots so that anyone can nominate themselves even though they are not supported by the power of money.
This situation has provided space for the power of the oligarchy to co-opt democracy in Indonesia. “Because they have the power of big capital”, said As’ad.
Those who have money then try to buy votes with their money.
“These capitalists don’t become candidates, but they can regulate the rhythm of local political contests. Just like the owner of an 11 person soccer team. They don’t need to be a player, but they buy the world’s top players, they pay and they plan to become a big power”, he said.
The dependency of candidates on sources of finance from a handful of people in the oligarchy flows on to the policies that they enact after being elected.
As’ad said that with this dependency, elected regional heads almost certainly do not side with the ordinary people. Regional heads, he said, clearly side with the interests of the oligarchy as reciprocation for the money spend during regional elections.
He gave as an example regions that are rich in natural resources. In these areas, there are many regional heads who give out mining concessions to business tycoons.
As’ad suspects that these business people get the mining concessions because they sponsored the election campaign of the regional heads.
“They [regional heads] become like the title of the song ‘half my soul is gone’. Yes because they’re dictated to so that the policies they enact side with the interests of groups that were the wheelers and dealers in the Pilkada”, said As’ad.
This situation is slowly eroding the bargaining power of the government and the state in the face of the oligarchy. The government’s status is slowly changing from being the power holder and a servant of the ordinary people to becoming a “client” of businesspeople.
Conversely, the oligarchy in the regional has now become the power holders because they can control the government. “The state has now changed into a client, not a patron. The state is held hostage by the political power of capitalists”, he said. (rzr/wis)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Pengamat: Kepala Daerah Hanya Jadi Kacung Oligarki”.]