The National Democrat Party has unveiled a war chest of up to Rp 3 trillion ($318 million) to help it win a massive 31 percent of seats at the House of Representatives in the 2014 elections.
“Our target is to get 176 seats in the House,” Ahmad Rofiq, secretary general of the party known as NasDem, said at a discussion in Jakarta on Saturday.
He said that the party’s goal was to bring change to the country and to do that it would have to get at least 50 percent of its 300 candidates into the House.
“Change will not happen with just 8 or 10 percent of our members in the House,” he said.
NasDem’s target, if met, would make it the biggest party in the House. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, the current largest party, has 148 of the 560 seats at the House, or 26 percent.
To meet its goal, Rofiq said that NasDem would allocate between Rp 5 billion and Rp 10 billion for each of its 300 legislative candidates, giving the party a war chest of Rp 1.5 trillion to Rp 3 trillion.
“They are competent candidates who lack the financial backing,” he said.
“If they could raise the money themselves, this would not guarantee their loyalty to the party. We don’t want our members to feel that they owe their success to somebody else. We want them to be loyal to the party.”
He added that NasDem would also be cautious and transparent in distributing the money. One strategy is to conduct surveys to gauge candidates’ electability.
The recently formed NasDem has as its biggest financial backers media tycoons Surya Paloh, a possible presidential candidate, and Hary Tanoesoedibjo.
Ray Rangkuti, a political observer and director of the Indonesian Civic Network (LIMA), said NasDem’s strategy of funding its members was “an alternative worth trying” because of the inherently improved transparency in the funding process.
“Auditing the funding will be simpler because there’s only one source of funding: the party. This also enables the party to better control its members,” he said.
He added the party would also be more strict in selecting candidates, and with financial backing, the candidates could be more focused on winning the election and not have to worry about raising funds.
Legislative candidates often finance their campaigns themselves, borrow money from family or obtain loans or funding from other people. Many candidates go into debt following an election, increasing the tendency for them to engage in corruption to pay off their debt.
Ade Irawan, a senior researcher at Indonesia Corruption Watch, disapproved of the idea of a party backing its candidates financially, calling the strategy the “new face of vote buying.”
“The party will become an event organizer, sourcing money from other ‘sponsors’ and channeling it to its members. It does not eliminate the problem of vote buying,” he said.
He added that the problem of vote buying stemmed from a general disconnect and lack of communication between legislators and their constituents.