Firda Cynthia Anggrainy, Jakarta – The House of Representatives (DPR) Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction has initiated the distribution of sembako (basic goods) to people in its electoral districts (dapil) in bags with pictures of DPR Speaker and senior PDI-P politician Puan Maharani on them.
The parliamentary watchdog Forum of Concerned Citizens for Indonesia's Parliament (Formappi) says it is shocked by the move.
"Who knows what the aim is or what the PDI-P faction is doing. What business do they have campaigning for Puan. Is it because of Puan's position as DPR speaker and indeed the PDI-P faction leader isn't known [to the public] so the PDI-P faction has been asked to socialise her, or is this an early campaign in the interests of the 2024 elections. So let's say it's the PDI-P factions response to Puan's level of electability in surveys which is always very low", Formappi researcher Lucius Karus told journalists on Friday December 24.
This is because Karus does not see any relevance between the duties of DPR members and handing out sembako. Especially, he said, sembako with Maharani's picture on it. According to Karus, handing out sembako in special packages with politician's pictures on them is usually done during election campaigns.
"Who knows what the relationship is between the work of a DPR member and handing out sembako which isn't any old sambako but sembako with a special picture on it, namely Puan's photograph plus photos of PDI-P faction members", he said.
"Distributing sembako with special packaging covered with photos of the politician is generally only done during [election] campaign periods", he said.
Furthermore, he is concerned that the initiative to hand out the sembako was done with an eye on the 2024 presidential elections when, according to Karus, the DPR members' work up until now is still not satisfactory.
"If this is early campaigning for the 2024 elections, of course it's of concern, yes. The elections are still quite far away, her work as a DPR member is also not yet satisfactory, but they instead have to shoulder another burden which isn't relevant to their role as a DPR member, namely campaigning for a PDI-P leader who wants to become something in the 2024 elections", he said.
Karus highlighted the fact that this is being done during a recess period. He believes that efforts to garner sympathy by DPR members from the people in their electoral districts should be done as part of their duties as the people's representatives, not with the aim of election campaigning.
"Seeking voters' sympathy during the recess period for [DPR] members should of course be done in the context of their role and function as DPR members", he said.
"Handing out sembako, if it's simply to help people in electoral districts, that's okay but it must be for reasons that are devout, humanitarian and honest about the source of the funds. It's not okay if recess period funds are used to buy sembako for the goal of campaigning", he continued.
If the aim is just for electoral gain, Karus believes that it will not be easy to garner sympathy just by handing out sembako with Maharani's picture on them. He is not convinced the Maharani's electability will be boosted by this initiative.
"I think the strategy of handing out sembako with Puan's photo on it won't easily gain sympathy. Puan's popularity may perhaps be boosted a little bit but I'm not convinced about her electability", he said.
"Taking advantage of the recess period to campaign for Puan will be seen as being too pushy even though its already known her electoral capital almost doesn't exist", said Karus. (gbr/gbr)
According to a December 23 report by Kompas.com, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction member Hendrawan Supratikno said that all PDI-P members have been instructed to distribute basic goods using bags with Maharani's picture on them. Supratikno claimed that this was a concrete initiative by the PDI-P to build solidarity between the party structure and the grass roots. This follows a similar controversy when billboards with pictures of Maharani were put up near shelters for disaster victims fleeing the Semeru volcano eruption.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Formappi Kritik F-PDIP DPR Bagi Sembako Gambar Puan: Pemilu Masih Jauh".]