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Indonesia: Election Spending Limits Proposed

(Mar. 17, 2015) Indonesia’s General Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum, or KPU) is reportedly about to set limits on campaign spending for the upcoming regional elections. The regulation on spending will be related to the existing law on local elections, adopted as Law No. 1 of 2015. The regulation will apply both to candidates and parties, and the amount of the cap will differ in the various regions of the country. While the KPU will determine the formula to calculate the limits, local election officials will set the actual amounts. (Hans Nicolas Jong, Limit Set for Campaign Funds in Local Elections, JAKARTA POST (Mar. 13, 2015); Law No. 1, 2015, Making into Law the Government Regulation in Lieu of Law No. 1 of 2014 on the Election of Governors, Regents, and Mayors, Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat [House of Representatives] website (in Indonesian).)

Speaking on March 12, 2015, Nur Syarifah of the KPU legal bureau stated, “[t]he goal is to reduce costs. Our democracy has long been perceived as being too costly. Hopefully with these budget ceilings, we will no longer see extravagant campaigns.” (Jong, supra.) KPU Commissioner Ida Budhiati stated that the formula for determining the spending limits will rely on the number of eligible votes in a region, the number of regencies (a type of sub-unit under a province) or municipalities, and the average per person cost of running a full-day meeting in the region. (Id.)

Proposed Funding Rules

The new rules will limit donations from individuals to Rp50 million (about US$3,800) and from organizations to Rp500 million (about US$38,000). While outdoor campaigning activities like canvassing are to be funded by the candidates themselves with help from donors, public debates and television commercials will be funded by the local governments. The KPU says that mass-media campaigns of up to ten 30-second televised commercials or 60-second radio spots each day will be allowed for a set two-week period, before a pre-election time in which such campaigning is suspended. (Id.)

Reaction to the Proposal

Miryam S. Haryani of the Hanua Paty said that the proposal “is actually great as it could push candidates to rely more on direct vote canvassing so that voters can really learn about who they are voting for and not be blind voters.” She did, however, say that limiting spending was not sufficient to eliminate wasteful spending and graft, adding, “[w]hat about corruption involving regional budgets? We have to be careful with the potential of budgets being abused by an incumbent for campaign purposes.” (Id.)

The organization Transparency International, which rates countries on perceived levels of corruption, gave Indonesia a score of 34 for 2014, based on a measure in which 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. It further scored Indonesia as of 2010 as about -0.73 for control of corruption, where the worst score is -2.5 and the best is 2.5. (Transparency International, Indonesia, CORRUPTION BY COUNTRY/TERRITORY (last visited Mar. 16, 2015).)