Markets for Votes in Indonesia: Partisans, Personal Networks, and Winning Margins
About the Seminar
How widespread is vote buying in Indonesia? Although there has been a burst of scholarly and non-scholarly writings on the topic in the last few years, little is known about how many voters receive material incentives from politicians. This research offers a systematic answer to fundamental questions about the intensity of vote buying at parliamentary and local executive elections in Indonesia. Using data from a nationally representative survey, it demonstrates that vote buying has become central to electoral mobilisation in Indonesia. One out of three Indonesians was personally exposed to vote buying in most recent national legislative election, making the country the site of the third-largest reported sum of exchange of money for votes in the world. This study argues that candidates and brokers actually intend to target partisan voters, but in reality they mostly distribute benefits to voters who are politically rather indifferent, but who are embedded in personal networks through which they are connected to the candidate. Given their reliance on personal networks, most candidates and brokers typically misidentify non-partisans as loyalists because they misinterpret personal connections as partisan leanings. If vote buying is so misdirected, why do candidates invest so heavily in it?
This study found that offers of vote buying in legislative elections influenced the vote choice of an estimated ten percent of total respondents. In this seemingly low number, however, lies the key to vote buying’s attractiveness. That ten percent effect of vote buying is sufficient for many candidates to secure their seats, explaining why they still engage in vote buying despite high levels of leakage. By proposing that vote buying in Indonesia is a function of achieving narrow victory margins, the study explains how and why vote buying is so prevalent in Indonesia.
About the Speaker
Burhanuddin Muhtadi is a PhD candidate under the Australia Awards Scholarship in the Department of Political and Social Change, in the Coral Bell School of Asia-Pacific Affairs, at ANU. He is a lecturer in “Election and Voting Behaviour” at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta. He is also an executive director of the Indikator Politik Indonesia and Director of Public Affairs at the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI). His research interests are voting behaviour, social movement, political Islam, and democracy. He also published his articles in the Asian Studies Review, Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies (BIES), Asian Journal of Social Sciences, Asian Journal of Social Policy, Graduate Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies, New Mandala, and East Asia Forum.