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Gamawan Fauzi: There's no ideal system for local elections  



19 October 2018 19:14 WIB

Gamawan Fauzi, the Minister of Home Affairs. TEMPO/Wisnu Agung Prasetyo

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Not so long ago Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi was a student busy preparing his dissertation, something he has been doing over the past year. On weekends, he would work on his quantitative research disseminating questionnaires and analyzing them, mainly for his doctoral dissertation, titled 'The Impact of Direct Local Elections on Corruption among Local Chief Executives in Indonesia' which he has now completed. "I defended it last month," he said, with a tone of relief.

On Tuesday last week at his office in Central Jakarta, Gamawan met with Tempo and proudly showed off his 400-page opus, a requirement to complete his doctoral degree program from the State Institute of Public Administration. "It's not the thickness that matters, but my passion to keep on studying," he said. 

Nevertheless, the topic he chose for his thesis is now giving him endless headaches. The Local Elections Bill (Pilkada) is currently being deliberated by his ministry and the House of Representatives (DPR). It became a topic of public debate when political parties specifically those supporting Prabowo Subianto in the recent presidential election sought to return to the old system of regional and local chief executives being appointed to office by their respective Regional House of Representatives (DPRD). To many, this is nothing more than depriving people of their right to vote. Yet, in the past decade, people have proven they are capable of choosing their leaders independently. 

Using studies carried out by his ministry, Gamawan demonstrated that direct local elections often created horizontal conflicts, cost more, caused money politics and led many candidates to end up being trapped in corruption cases as he asserted in his thesis. "This is not whether elections by the DPRD are a step backward or forward, but how we can make them more effective. Both systems are equally democratic," Gamawan told Tempo reporters Budi Setyarso, Heru Triyono and Tika Primandari. Excerpts of the interview.

What are the reasons behind the government's decision to implement local elections through the DPRDs?

In the nine years that regional and local direct elections have been carried out there have been 1,027 elections. This system would be ideal in a country where the education system is developed and people's welfare are guaranteed. We did it too fast. In nine years' time, the horizontal conflicts have caused violence, arson and 75 deaths.

Yet many good chief executives emerged out of that system.

Out of 524 local chief executives directly elected by their constituents, 321 have been indicted by the law, 287 of them linked to corruption cases.

What does this mean?

That the leaders elected by the people are not doing their work, because the burden to pay back the capital they borrowed to get elected forced them to buy a 'boat'.

Do you mean money to buy a party's nomination?

Yes, that's a colloquial term. That money should be borne by the parties, but in practice that's not the case. The would-be candidate would have to spend billions of rupiah. Even after they are nominated, parties still demanded all kinds of favors from them. It's just too heavy a burden and that's how 287 of them were indicted for corruption.

How much would someone need to run in local elections?

It depends on the size of the electoral area and its population. Why? Because it's the population size that determines the rates. For example, if a candidate wants to set up a banner, [the cost] would be not just to set it up, but also to hire someone to guard it. Otherwise it would disappear in the night.

Exactly how much would a candidate spend?

I don't know exactly. People never tell the truth [about their expenses], but in my dissertation I identify the three phases candidates must undergo. First, it's the introductory stage, even before they are affiliated to any party yet when they must already start putting up banners. The second phase would be the actual campaign and the third phase is the legalization [of their nomination], needing money to pay lawyers in case there are disputes and to express their 'thanks' to the team. All that costs money.

When you ran for regent of Solok and later for West Sumatra governor how much did you spend? 

Not a cent. I was offered the nomination of one party which asked for Rp8 billion. I refused it.

So, you did not spend any money at all?

When I nominated myself as candidate for West Sumatra governor, the parties supporting me were the PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle), PBB (Crescent Star Party) and the people. I accepted without strings attached. In fact, someone sent a carload of boxes filled with ready-made banners and stickers from Pekanbaru and Jakarta.

At that time, were you elected directly?

Yes. I did the three electoral phases during the New Order as well as during the multiparty (27 political parties) and direct election systems.

So you are proof that a credible candidate doesn't need exorbitant funds to run. 

I was able to do that because the public was already familiar with my track record. If the candidate is credible, it can be done. Without campaigning, I would win anyway. Campaigns raise a candidate's popularity only by 10 percent. I am also convinced if Ibu Risma (Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini) runs again, she wouldn't need to campaign and she would win.

Doesn't that mean that we don't need to change the system, only require parties to find credible candidates to nominate?

Will parties go with that? The elite parties will speak out and say: I built the party, used my money (for the campaign) but then someone else becomes the regent. Will they be happy with that? This kind of problem needs time to resolve. Besides, the current system costs money too. The elections may take place in West Sumatra, but the candidate could come from Jakarta. That can cost a lot. (*)

Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine

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