Indonesian election watchdogs warn vote-buying may increase

Indonesian election watchdogs warn vote-buying may increase

JAKARTA - Election watchdogs have raised alarm over the possibility of an increase in vote-buying in the July 9 election, after a survey found that many Indonesians believe the tactic was more prevalent in the April legislative elections than in 2009.

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems and Indonesia Survey Institute (IFES-LSI), which released the findings yesterday, said 34 per cent of respondents believed there was more vote-buying in April while 26 per cent felt election results were manipulated at some polling stations.

Central Java, the province with the largest number of voters, was perceived to have the highest rate of vote-buying.

"It is hard to tell if there is more vote-buying but we are certainly seeing more awareness of these illegal tactics once considered normal and even acceptable," said Ms Titi Anggraini, executive director of elections watchdog Perludem.

"What we are worried about in the upcoming presidential election is that people in areas that are remote or without strong campaigning by electoral watchdogs and media remain vulnerable to these practices."

Vote-buying, usually with cash or staples, is of particular concern because the presidential election is expected to see a close vote.

IFES-LSI said its survey during June 1 to 10 revealed 43 per cent support for Mr Joko Widodo or Jokowi, compared to 39 per cent for Mr Prabowo Subianto.

In some cases, vote-buying is more subtle. There are areas where legislative candidates built roads or funded community activities in an attempt to win votes.

Some 44 per cent of respondents said they had voted for candidates who delivered such improvements in their community, said Mr Rakesh Sharma, IFES' director of applied research.

Election observers anticipate more vote-buying in the next two weeks. On Tuesday, Election Commission deputy Arief Budiman called on local election watchdogs to monitor staff closely.

Despite such concerns, eight in 10 respondents felt the legislative elections had been free and fair, and nine in 10 indicated they would vote in the presidential election. Mr Rakesh said: "We estimate that overall voter turnout for the upcoming election to be more than 80 per cent, higher than the legislative elections, seeing how voters are more engaged in this round and the race is more intense."

This article was first published on June 26, 2014.
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