Shades of Clientelism: A Comparative Study of Indonesia’s Patronage Democracy

Through a combination of ethnographic fieldwork with an expert survey, this project studies and compares clientelistic politics across Indonesia.

Political clientelism refers to the practice of exchanging electoral support for personal benefits. Since this exchange relationship between voter and politician is blamed for various societal ills – ranging from inefficient governance and economic stagnation to ethnic violence – we need to know why and how a democracy becomes more (or less) clientelistic. Yet we lack analytical tools to establish the extent to which a political system is clientelistic and we lack reliable quantitative data that would allow for systematic comparisons.

This research project aims to enable such comparisons by integrating qualitative and quantitative methods to study election campaigns across Indonesia. Is Indonesia’s democratization process curtailing clientelistic practices in some regions while fostering them elsewhere? If so, how can such divergences be explained? To address these questions, an ethnographic fieldwork on the functioning of election campaigns and tim sukses is combined with an expert survey, executed in 40 districts in 17 provinces.


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