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  • Author or Editor: Edward Aspinall x

The Patronage Patchwork

Village Brokerage Networks and the Power of the State in an Indonesian Election

Edward Aspinall and Muhammad Uhaib As’ad

This article analyses the roles played by patronage and brokerage in an Indonesian district election by focusing on variation in village-level results. Through interviews with village elites, we found that highly uneven village voting patterns were strongly influenced by varying patterns of patronage distribution. The winning candidate (the son of the incumbent) used a state-centred form of patronage involving pork barrel and club goods that proved more effective than gifts distributed through social, specifically religious, networks. Also critical were effective and trustworthy community-level brokers to deliver patronage, with retail vote-buying especially vulnerable to broker predation. Among the four categories of brokers we identified, state brokers—notably village heads—were especially effective at marshalling votes. Our findings underline the importance of patronage in Indonesian elections and the centrality of brokers in clientelistic systems generally. They also help explain the domination of former bureaucrats in electoral contests in regional Indonesia.