Money can't buy our rights as citizens

Musfihin Dahlan, a friend of mine who was a member of the 2004-2009 House of Representatives (DPR), representing the Golkar Party, was absolutely right. When he conducted his re-election campaigns in the Riau region he told his constituents not to be tempted by the practice of vote-buying. This is in the sense that they agree to accept money - or any other form of material inducement - in exchange for supporting a certain candidate. According to him, once such a transaction has taken place, voters have actually sold their votes. Likewise, candidates have bought the people's support. Should they become members of parliament - of course, because of that support - they have no obligation whatsoever to be held accountable to those who have voted for them. Rather, their course of action - as past experiences indicated - would be very much influenced and shaped by what Idrus Marham, also a member of parliament, and now Golkar's secretary general, calls "micro incentives". In much simpler words, micro incentives are not in accord with public interest. On the contrary, often it does not only differ, but contradicts the people's interests as it deals exclusively with the partisan and/or individual interest of the member of parliament. There is no strong evidence to support the above observation other than what had been displayed by the members of the House' Commission III just very recently. From the hearings they held with the National Police Chief as well as the Attorney General, Indonesians saw clearly how the House members were very supportive of the two state institutions, thanks to the live TV broadcast. The public was extremely furious to learn that the Commission III shamelessly took sides, rather than questioning them to dig up more evidence or clarify confusion. Overtly, they encouraged both the National Police and Attorney General Office (AGO) to remain strong in doing their jobs, and stand by their position - regardless of the public outcry over the allegedly unholy maneuvers to incarcerate the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputies Chandra Hamzah and Bibit Samad Rianto. The House members were seen as exhibiting a naked betrayal of the people who had put them in such a luxurious position - socially, politically, and (more importantly) economically. That Commission III appeared to have taken sides was something that only a few would disagree with. As such however, they had not necessarily betrayed the interests of the people, especially those who had voted for them in the not too long ago general elections. Many of them had spent a fortune to finance their campaigns. A great chunk of their expenditures, if our common understanding of the practice of money politics is true, went to voters in the attempt to get their support. Like a market place, the election was characteristically transactional - in its very crudest sense of the word. In the past, it was generally believed that the candidates initiated this sort of practice. In its present development, the voters shamelessly ask for a certain amount of money or public facility in exchange for their votes. They are increasingly aware that even to elect a leader of the neighborhood association or a village head involves a large amount of money. As such it should be substantially higher when it comes to a parliamentary election. Under these circumstances, where the economic interplay between voters and candidates is vividly demonstrated, indeed, the parliamentary election was nothing more than a simple transaction between voters and candidates. When the former agrees to accept money or any other material inducement, the later has no obligation whatsoever to represent the former's interest. If this line of thought is acceptable, then the recent accusation that DPR's Commission III was betraying the public interests may only be true theoretically, but not morally and politically. They had paid their dues right from the start - giving out money or any kind of material inducement to their constituents in exchange for their support. It may sound sarcastic, but it could only be rebutted when and if the public are ready to cease asking for money or other material inducement from the existing candidates. Then and only then we could demand that each and every single member of parliament aggregate and articulate our interests, emphasizing more on the macro- than micro-incentive side of politics.

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