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Prabowo asks for donations: 'For the price of a pack of cigarettes, you can change the future of the nation'

Coconuts Jakarta - June 22, 2018

In Indonesia, political parties are generally funded by wealthy patrons while individual politicians are often forced to finance their own campaigns and even pay parties for the privilege of running under their banner (enormous expenses that are often paid for with promises of illicit money-making deals once they're in office).

Appeals to the general public for donations are quite rare former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama caused quite a stir when he chose to run as an independent funded largely by private contributions to his failed 2017 campaign.

Which is why a video put out yesterday by Gerindra chairman and potential 2019 presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto is raising a lot of eyebrows. In the video, the former general calls on his supporters to donate whatever small amount they can in order to help fund Gerindra ahead of next week's nationwide regional elections.

In the video, Prabowo says that the enormous cost of politics in Indonesia has caused many potential candidates to lose to others who simply had more funding, which is why the Gerindra party needs the support and donations of the community.

"I am designing a fundraiser program to reach out directly to the people, to my supporters and to supporters of Gerindra. I call it @GalangPerjuangan (which roughly translates to "Fundraising for the Struggle")" Prabowo says in the video.

Prabowo then says that Gerindra has prepared an account to accept donations of any amount and implores supporters to give whatever they can to aid in Gerindra's struggle.

"I beg your help. How much depends on your ability. If you, say, send IDR5,000 (USD0.36) we will be grateful. If you can send IDR10,000, IDR20,000 and so on it will be very meaningful."

"Imagine, IDR20,000 is the same as a pack of cigarettes or two instant noodles. For the price of two packs of instant noodles or the price of a pack of cigarettes, you can change the future of the nation."

Prabowo then says that if half of his 10 million followers on Facebook were to donate IDR20,000, then it would be greatly strengthen Gerindra and its candidates in the upcoming regional elections (taking place on June 27).

"Moreover, those of you who have more, I beg your help. This account will be managed with transparency, tightly managed and accountable," Prabowo says, adding that details on how to donate can be accessed via the @GalangPerjuangan_bot in the Telegram app.

Prabowo's video certainly raises a lot of questions, first and foremost being whether or not Gerindra is seriously so lacking in funds just a week before the regional elections that it would have its chairperson put out such an unprecedented appeal for donations.

Gerindra executive board chairperson Habiburokhman explicitly denied that the party was running out of money today in response to questions about Prabowo's video. "Oh, no (we haven't run out of funds), crowdfund is normal in a democracy," Habiburokhman told Kompas today.

Habiburokhman cited politics in the United States and politicians such as Barack Obama and Donald Trump who raised large amount of money from supporters for their presidential campaigns. He said that crowdfunding from the public could also help eliminate the old unhealthy practices of political patronage that have been plaguing Indonesian democracy.

The senior Gerindra politician argued that his party has long been open to public donations and they've made similar appeals for donations before in previous elections. He also claimed the donations would be used to not just finance campaigning but also the party's socialization projects like aid for disaster victims.

While Gerindra may indeed have been open to public donations in the past, an appeal from such a senior and esteemed figure as Prabowo feels quite unprecedented.

The former general may feel he has to go all-out to not only help ensure his party wins big in next week's regional elections, but also to aid his own potential 2019 presidential bid. Although he has already been nominated by Gerindra, Prabowo's candidacy remains unofficial until his party can meet the required political support thresholds, which will require a coalition with at least one other party.

Several parties, including the Islam-based the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and National Mandate Party (PAN) have expressed their desire to back Prabowo's candidacy, but behind-the-scenes negotiations have not yet led to anything concrete. Big wins for Gerindra in next week's election may turn negotiations in their favor.

Although the regional elections will not have any effect on Gerindra meeting the presidential threshold requirements (those numbers were set by the 2014 national election), Prabowo's brother and trusted advisor, Gerindra Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Hashim Djojohadikusumo, said back in March that Prabowo would immediately declare his candidacy if Gerindra were to win big specifically, if the party was able to win 17 of the country's gubernatorial races.

Gerindra's candidates winning the governor's races in more than half of the country's provinces seems like a lofty goal (especially since not every one of Indonesia's 33 provinces is even holding a gubernatorial election this year). It may be even more impossible if the party is lacking in funds. We'll just have to wait and see what kind of impact Prabowo's crowdfunding appeal will end up having.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/prabowo-asks-public-donations-price-pack-cigarettes-can-change-future-nation/.

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