Transactional Politic: Learning from Budi Gunawan’s Case

It is a quite embarrassing moment for, Jokowi, current Indonesia President after Budi Gunawan, a police chief hopeful, was announced as graft suspect by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). This announcement just came out not long after Jokowi gave his recommendation regarding the police chief nominee. Furthermore, it is also several days prior to the police chief hearing scheduled by House of Representatives. A question may arise here: why did Jokowi suggest Budi Gunawan as the police chief?

In this article, I would not like to study the detail about the capability of Budi Gunawan or his track records in his professional career. When his name was put under the recommendation made by National Police Commission (Kompolnas), I think that the body had not doubted the capability of his career in police. What I would like to elaborate more in this writing is more about morality in politics. Why is it important? The answer lies in the fact of Jokowi’s promise itself who promised for not having transactional politic once he became Indonesia President. Furthermore, it is also worth to note that he also emphasized the importance of building clean government when he was selecting his ministers.

From the first time Jokowi selected his ministers, several people had put doubt on them especially for several names who were considered as part of transactional politics. I would not like to elaborate the names here because many people have already discussed them already. However, what is important here is when doing the task, Jokowi asked KPK help to properly check whether or not the chosen candidates had bad track records regarding corruption. Thus, it was quite clear that Jokowi put his conscience in selecting the candidates and showed his consistency in maintaining clean government.

From the news currently circulating, it is also then clear that Budi Gunawan had also been one of the candidates. However, the name was then rejected due to the bad track record regarding fat bank account. It was quite fortunate that Jokowi followed the KPK suggestion for not naming Budi as one of his ministers. The problem then arises when Jokowi then selected him as the only candidate of the police chief. Why could this thing happen? If the answer offered is “he is also recommended by Kompolnas,” then it is very ridiculous. How can a president give such an answer? It just blame other for his unreasonable decision. In fact, Kompolnas did not only recommend Budi Gunawan as the sole candidate. Thus, it should have been reasonable for Jokowi to have other candidates who have better track records regarding graft cases since he already knew that the name he chose had been already blacklisted before in minister selection. Thus, why should he come to the decision?

People may speculate that it is because Budi Gunawan was the former adjutant for Megawati when she was a president. In this case, it is then clear about the transactional politics lingering Jokowi. Of course I cannot prove the fact that there is a transactional politic occurring behind this particular phenomenon. Even if journalists ask Jokowi directly regarding this matter, he may answer that he chooses him because of his exceptional track record. But one thing to note: transactional politic often happens and one person cannot eradicate it easily through promising. It is a very tough job, if it cannot be said as impossible.

The reason behind it has been extensively covered by Francis Fukuyama, a political philosopher. It is mainly because we have a tendency of kin selection. When human beings start to organize something and on the highest degree to organize a country, they tend to select people who are close to him. The reason is quite simple: because they know them and perhaps, to some extent, as part of a reciprocal altruism. It occurs everywhere even though we never consciously notice it. For example, when a manager would like to hire a new employee, he/she will prefer the one who is graduated from the same university. This is probably because he/she already knows about the quality about his/her university or as a part of alumni solidarity. Even though there are also some other candidates who have better profile and experience, the manager would get stick to his/her alumni. Hence it is very normal to choose people who are close to you or those who share similar things because you know you can trust them or because you have to pay something back to them. Similar thing also then occurs in politics and it is more complex because in order for a candidate to be a president, he must be supported and backed by people coming with different interests. As a consequence, there is a tendency for a president to select people who are close to him. The question is then: is it wrong?

In ideal circumstance, it is indeed wrong. In order to build a good country, transactional politic should not happen because ministerial post should be filled with competence people. However, as we live in non-ideal circumstance, this condition can be considered as “quite normal.” What should be emphasized then is we should not promise that transactional politic would not happen. Rather we should promise that we will fill the ministerial posts by competent people. Choosing candidate from our close friends is not a wrong decision provided that they have sufficient competency to perform the task. Moreover, when we talk about building a nation, they should also have clean track records regarding corruption. This is the thing that should be emphasized and made clear.

Thus, transactional politic is indeed a phenomenon that cannot be eradicated easily. If Jokowi wants to improve the quality of the government, what is needed is to fill any posts with good and clean candidates. I am not quite sure if there is no transactional politic occurring in Jokowi’s cabinet starting from Cabinet selection process. But I was quite glad to know that KPK was still involved during the selection process. And currently, I am very disappointed by the fact that either KPK or PPATK was not involved in selecting police chief candidate. Please Jokowi, we know certainly transactional politic can occur but please, keep your promise to have clean and professional government. There is nothing wrong by selecting your friends as long as they are clean and competence. It turns wrong only when you are heavily chained by the transactional politic and you get blind easily for the fact behind your candidates just because you want to satisfy everyone who has been backing you until now. Please remember, you work for Indonesian People.