Indian Catholic News

Stop 'money politics,' promote democracy

Media watchdogs, Catholic bishop speak out against vote buying in Indonesian elections.


The media in Indonesia have a vital role to play in curbing the influence of money in politics ahead of key regional elections coming up in December, according to a media expert.

The Dec. 9 polls will see citizens elect governors in nine Indonesian provinces, while hundreds of candidates for mayor and local district chiefs are also running. During such key elections, there will be a watchful eye on the longstanding practice of "money politics", where gift giving, conspicuous donations or outright vote buying can be standard.

"The practice of money politics is common during the process of general elections," Ignatius Haryanto, deputy director of the Indonesia Network for Investigative Journalism, said at a media seminar in Jakarta on Nov. 10.

Haryanto said that Indonesian media can play a significant role in the democratic process — either positively or negatively.

"There's a strong demand for media to educate people about politics, to take an impartial stance on candidates and to be neutral in writing stories on candidates," he said.

Often, incumbent candidates benefit from large budgets and the chance to use state funds to improve their chances of re-election, Haryanto told District heads can dip into their government budgets and dole out money to their constituents.

"It's done to win over voters," he said. "Such funds are easy to distribute when incumbent candidates want to run for regional elections."

The media, then, can serve as a watchful eye against such practices.

"Such things need to be revealed by the media so that the public can consider thoroughly before voting," Haryanto said.

Alexander Seran, a lecturer at Jakarta's Atma Jaya Catholic University, agreed that money is commonly used to influence voting. "So all citizens, particularly media, must perform their tasks independently and professionally," he said.

With many races in the December regional elections expected to be particularly close, the influence of money in politics is particularly important, said Almas Sjafrina from the group Indonesian Corruption Watch.

"We assume that [candidates] may break the rule banning the practice of money politics, because the polls are very tight," she said.

The church's voice

In East Nusa Tenggara, a predominantly Catholic province where two districts are up for grabs in December, the influence of money in politics is a real concern, according to Bishop Hubertus Leteng of Ruteng.

"I call on [Catholics] to reject the practice of money politics," the prelate told "If this practice continues to happen, people are not able to freely vote for the best candidate."

Source: UCAN

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