Sat, 12 Apr 2003

Politicians back transparency of campaign funds

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Politicians backed on Friday calls for presidential hopefuls to provide detailed information on the sources of their campaign funds to promote transparency.

They, however, shied away from setting the limit of campaign funds, a move that could prevent money politics in the upcoming elections.

"It is high time for presidential candidates to disclose in details their campaign funds. We have to discuss it seriously, as it is not mentioned in the draft presidential election bill," legislator Pramono Anung Wibowo said during a discussion here on Friday.

The House of Representatives (DPR) is currently deliberating the presidential election bill submitted by the government early this year.

Pramono, deputy secretary general of President Megawati Soekarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), said his faction would support the issue.

He said the presidential election bill currently being deliberated by House members had to specifically require each presidential candidate to produce a financial report on their campaign funds with detailed information on the names of donors, amount of money donated and expenditures.

Golkar legislator Slamet Effendi Yusuf and National Awakening Party (PKB) executive Imam Anshari Saleh concurred with Pramono, emphasizing that the regulations concerning campaign funds must promote accountability and transparency.

Smita Notosusanto, executive director of the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro), said during Friday's discussion that a presidential campaign was definitely a media campaign.

Therefore, she added, anyone with a vast amount of money would have a greater chance of dominating the campaign, because they could afford advertisement space and airtime.

Smita suggested that the bill clearly define campaign fund, donation and personal wealth of presidential candidates.

All contributions to campaign funds, including material contributions, services, exclusive prices for accommodation or travel during the campaign must be listed as campaign funds, she added.

"If all those contributions are excluded, it would violate the limitation provided by the bill," Smita said.

Although politicians were unable to estimate the ceiling limit of campaign funds, economist Sri-Edi Swasono predicted that each presidential candidate would need around Rp 20 trillion to optimize their campaign.

The estimate was calculated from the estimated amount of between Rp 5 million to Rp 15 million needed to hold a single mass gathering at the village level.

With the thousands of villages a candidate needed to visit, the cost of transportation, logistics and campaign flyers could easily cost up to Rp 20 trillion.

The monthly salary of the Indonesian president is about Rp 50 million. Taking this as a baseline figure, it would still require a great many contributions from supporters to raise the Rp 20 trillion as calculated in the estimate.

Swasono was not bothered by the large figure, but was concerned and anxious about the possibility that the money would be used to buy votes.