I have promoted you as legislative candidate here, but people will only vote for you if you have something to offer,” a text message read on a candidate's cell phone.
“I have received similar text messages almost every day recently,” National Mandate Party (PAN) candidate from South Sulawesi, Andi Yuliani or Yuli, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Yuli said most voters in the 2009 elections had been asking their legislative candidates for money and other items.
“Today, eligible voters can be the brokers, 'selling' their votes at certain prices and offering them to legislative candidates like me,” she said.
One voter even offered her 10 votes at Rp 50,000 (US$4.50) each.
“I am trying to play fairly in this election without involving money, but many legislative candidates have indulged voters by giving them money, phone credit, T-shirts and sandals,” Yuli said.
“In the previous election, I didn’t encounter such a situation. Now the voters believe their votes can be sold to whichever candidate pays the highest rate."
Yuli said the arrangement was potentially the worst aspect of regional elections, with local politicians using money to influence supporters.
She also criticized the Election Supervisory Body (Bawaslu) for their poor efforts monitoring the election process.
Political observer Fachry Ali said Indonesian voters had become smarter and more cunning compared to previous elections, learning how to "manipulate" legislative candidates or parties while maintaining distance from them.
“The people can manipulate and benefit from this situation,” he told the Post.
“It happens because politicians only begin approaching them during election periods,” he said.
During the campaign, most party leaders and candidates have made promises to improve the economy and provide cheaper essentials.
The elections — only eight days away — have provided a golden opportunity for the jobless to earn money regardless of their actual political preference.
Rahmanto, a worker from the Tanah Abang textile market in Central Jakarta, said he was enjoying the election campaign period so far.
He and his wife joined a campaign rally for a major party a few days ago and earned Rp 140,000 plus food and T-shirts just to watch a dangdut show and applaud the orators and performers.
His wife also bought cheap food — cooking oil, sugar, rice and instant noodles — in a bazaar staged by a mid-sized party.
“We were allowed to buy various staple goods for about Rp 10,000 each,” Rahmanto’s wife, Irma Yani, said.
For ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver Yono, the campaigns are a must-attend event.
“I have joined five party campaigns in the past two weeks. I received T-shirts, snacks and, of course, cash,” he said, laughing.
He said seasoned supporters like himself could earn between Rp 40,000 and Rp 80,000, depending on the party.
Although he has joined party campaign activities and earned some pay, he refused to reveal which party he will vote on April 9.
“Of course I have my favorite party. Joining these campaigns doesn’t mean I will choose any of them,” he said.
Rahmanto had his own opinion about voting. “I don’t think I will vote for any of those parties. I joined [the campaigns] just for money,” he said.
The Jakarta Post 4/1/2009