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Clientelism, Coercion and Competition: The Politics of Public Financial Resource Distribution in Decentralised Indonesia

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2023

Authors

Susilo, Fakhridho

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Abstract

Following the fall of the authoritarian New Order regime in 1999, Indonesia embarked upon the largest democratic decentralisation experiment in the world with far reaching implications for local governance dynamics. Along with the introduction of competitive elections for regional heads, regions have enjoyed a vast inflow of fiscal resources in line with the devolution of powers to the sub-national tier. Scholars have also agreed that Indonesia's democratic quality at the local level varies widely - some being open and highly competitive polities, whereas old patterns of entrenched elite interests and coercion seem to persist in other sub-national regimes - though patterns of clientelism remain widespread in both settings. How, though, does the significant rise in public resources inform the study of clientelistic politics in Indonesia? Beyond public sector corruption, how has clientelism shaped the use of public money for political gains in local contestations? Furthermore, how does within-country variation, as evident in the differing modes of political control exercised by local regimes in their respective localities, shape the clientelistic distribution of public resources? Despite various studies documenting clientelism in Indonesia's local politics, few have systematically analysed how the different political dynamics across local settings govern clientelistic outcomes, particularly when it pertains to public resources. This research places clientelism of public resources at the core of the problem and explores the extent to which coercion (or the absence thereof) as mode of local political control affects clientelistic resource allocation along with the mechanisms undergirding it. It looks at the patterns and outcome of the distribution of grants (hibah) and social assistance (bansos), two budget expenditures commonly regarded to be allocated in a clientelistic manner but which have received less scholarly attention to date. Using a comparative case study research design incorporating both qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis, this research compares the clientelistic dynamics of these resources across three regencies where incumbent regimes exercise differing levels of coercion as a mode of political control. Focusing on the role and agency of political brokers as the intermediating link between politician and voters in the distributive game of state resources, this study contends that coercion affects clientelistic resource allocation by structuring the incentives and agency of brokers as crucial linkage in voters-politician clientelistic relations. More specifically, when the use of coercion in political settings is largely absent and allows for an even playing field among actors, brokerage networks play a more prominent role in electoral politics and distributive process. Incumbents will then be more inclined to use discretionary public resources targeted at community level as tools of clientelistic rewards and shoring up political support. Conversely, when coercion is the predominant form of political control, incumbents possess a relative monopoly of power, limiting the ability of brokerage networks to exert influence in political governance and resource distribution. Rather than using public resources to clientelistically reward grassroot supporters, incumbents target a narrow set of cronies.

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Thesis (PhD)

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DOI

10.25911/Y3MN-9A15

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