Inducement or entry ticket? Broker network and vote buying in Indonesia

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This paper presents preliminary findings of a study of vote buying in several districts in Java during Indonesia’s 2014 legislative elections. Using a combination of interviews and observational research, analysis of candidates’ vote-buying lists, surveys of voters and brokers on those lists, and focus group discussions, we analyze the organization, targeting, effectiveness and meanings of vote-buying efforts.

We argue that Indonesian elections are broker-centered rather than party-centered affairs. Even so, brokers are not particularly effective and candidates often receive a high “margin error” — i.e. a gap between the number of payments they distribute and the number of votes they obtain. Contrary to some expectations, there is very little evidence of monitoring and/or enforcement of vote-buying exchanges.

We conclude that money politics is about credibility and broker mobilization, and that the money candidates distribute can be likened to an “entry ticket” that is purchased by candidates, after which they are evaluated by voters on other grounds.

The paper upon which this presentation is based was co-authored with Michael Davidson, Allen Hicken and Meredith Weiss and was produced as part of the Australian Research Council-funded project, “Money Politics: Patronage, Political Networks and Electoral Dynamics in Southeast Asia.”

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