Cash Flows: Money Politics in Indonesia

by indonotes

I have previously discussed dynastic politics in post Suharto Indonesia and the interlinking of national and local politics. A recent issue of Critical Asian Studies has brought me back to thinking about this. In particular Edward Aspinall’s article ‘When Brokers Betray: Clientelism, Social Networks, and Electoral Politics in Indonesia’ (the article is available open access). Two key themes come out of this (beyond the pervasiveness of money politics) as far as I can see. One is the personalisation of Indonesian politics and the other is the instability of the networks involved.

In explaining the personalisation of these networks he highlights several factors:

Introduction of direct elections for local government heads in 2005

Introduction of open list proportional representation in legislative elections from 2009 (voters generally vote for either a party or candidate. Seats are allocated to parties on the basis of their share of vote summed from votes from the part and individuals from their party. Then seats are allocated to individuals based on their individual share of the vote vs other candidates within their party. So candidates are incentivised to campaign for themselves more than their party).

Importance of clan, family and patronage networks held by influential local notables especially in poorer and more isolated

Whilst this all resonates very much with what else I have read on political networks in Indonesia, in the other theme of the article, that is the instability of these networks, I can see a tension with the cartelisation thesis of Dan Slater. I think I am still a long way off understanding the balance of stability and fluidity in the Indonesian political system, but at least these approaches provide tools to start getting to grips with it.

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