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STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT. Corruption and vote buying remain major concern that might taint the upcoming 2018 regional elections, with abuse of social assistance funds (Bansos) highlighted as a serious problem.

The campaign period started in mid-February and will last until four days before June 27, when the 171 participating regions hold local election simultaneously. Incumbents are often perceived as prone to misusing regional budgets to fund  their political campaign during the elections on the ground that they still have control over the budgets.

A common illicit practice, according to watchdog the Indonesia Budget Center (IBC), involves incumbents who use money embezzled from regional budgets, especially funds earmarked for bansos, to fund their political campaign. Meantime, the Home Ministry has repeatedly warned regional heads, particularly those running for election, to be prudent in managing regional budgets.

However, the ministry takes no responsibility for any regional budget misuse, arguing that budget  monitoring is not under its authority but is the role of the Government Internal Oversight Body (APIP), which is set up in all government institutions from the national to local level.

Although the ministry has been relying on the APIP in its prevention of such illicit practices, its efficacy has been questioned as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) continued to arrest regional heads and officials in recent weeks in alleged regional budget embezzlement in the coming elections.

Earlier this month, the KPK arrested the regent of Jombang in East java, Nyono Suharli Wihandoko, and the regency’s acting health agency head Inna Silestyowati in a biribery case cantering on an alleged misappropriation of health fund. Nyono has been accused of using the bribe to fund his reelection bid.

The KPK has now intensified its graft-prevention campaign in 10 provinces, including Lampung, East java and South Sulawesi in which election will take place this year. The campaign will focus on nine aspects, including regional budgets management.

In a rare move in Jambi home to around 3 million muslims, the Indonesia Ulema Council’s (MUI) Jambi office declared that vote-buying was haram (prohibited under Islamic law).

The region will see three municipalities and regencies participating in this year’s elections, namely Jmbi city, as well as Merangin and Kerinci regencies. “Vote buying involves bribery, a practice that is prohibited in this region,” said A. Tarmizi, the chairman of MUI Jambi. (Wilnas/TW Deora).