Accountability, clientelism and elections in Indonesia

A new article at JCA’s website reflects on decentralisation and voting in Indonesia. “A Tale of Three Cities: Electoral Accountability in Indonesian Local Politics” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1376345) by Diego Fossati of the Centre for Governance and Public Policy and the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University in Australia.

Fossati’s paper is a quantitative-based analysis that seeks to contribute to the debates regarding oligarchy and power in Indonesia since the fall of the Soeharto regime.

The abstract states:

In Indonesia, local government is endowed with important policy prerogatives and local politics is key to advance social welfare. The literature on Indonesian local politics has convincingly exposed serious limitations in local democratic practices, and it has questioned the ability of local democracy to promote genuine political change. This work, however, predominantly focuses on elite politics and specific forms of accountability based on patronage and clientelism. In this paper, we study democratic accountability in Indonesia from a different perspective. Drawing from the comparative literature on voting behavior, we hypothesise that Indonesian voters evaluate local politicians for their performance, and that they vote to reward or punish them for what they do in office. The analysis of three original surveys conducted in the cities of Medan, Samarinda and Surabaya offers partial support for this argument. While there is a positive relationship between evaluations of local government performance and support for incumbents, the strength of this link varies substantially across individuals and cities. The results shed new light on voter-politician linkages in Indonesia, suggesting that forms of accountability different from clientelism may emerge in this large and diverse country.

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