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The Jokowi effect: No breakthrough in party oligarchy in Indonesia

Publication Date : 11-04-2014

 

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN)  - I was wrong. The media was wrong. The polls were wrong. There was no “Jokowi effect”. Or maybe there was one, but it was not strong enough to break the stranglehold that Indonesia’s party oligarchies have on the electorate.

The quick counts show the  Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) with a lukewarm share of less than 20 percent of the vote. It is still higher than the others and enough to claim the number-one ranking, but not qualitatively different from Golkar or Gerindra, or even the Democratic Party.

It is an anticlimax following the frenzy that seemed to be building around the emergence of Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as the presidential candidate of Megawati Soekarnoputri’s party. Predictions that the PDI-P would capture 35 percent or more of the vote in the legislative election proved to be grossly optimistic.

There is no doubt that Jokowi was a percentage booster for the PDI-P, but that shows two things. First, the PDI-P must be in dire straits to have achieved such mediocre results, which means it would do really poorly without Jokowi.

The second thing is that Jokowi would not necessarily win against Gerindra’s Prabowo Subianto, whose weakness lies in his public morality but not in his perseverance and intelligence.

Jokowi backers might have the morality but not the will to win, as they are not investing in the Jokowi candidacy by voting for the party that will launch him.

 But my friend A, a keen political observer, points out that for her, the PDI-P’s debacle is a blessing in disguise. She is in fact relieved that the PDI-P got a modest 20 per cent and not a thumping 35 per cent, because it confirms her view that Indonesian politics will not be reformed by just a single individual but by elimination of the political oligarchies.

Jokowi gives hope to the Indonesian public, but the PDI-P is the same old story of a party failing to modernise, clinging to an archaic leadership exemplified by subservience to Ibu Megawati.

As a senior journalist, Goenawan Mohamad pointed out in his tweet, whether or not there is a “Jokowi effect,” he is more popular than his political party. And that, in my friend’s view, is good because we need to reject the party’s adherence to tired old politics.

Now Jokowi has the choice to either break loose from Megawati’s control to rescue the PDI-P from oblivion or remain a party tool.

The PDI-P has to play the coalition game now, bringing back business-as-usual as the mode of political power building.

It is not the party of the people and will remain the party of blind loyalists unless it cuts Jokowi loose and encourages him to mobilise the good people of the land, most of whom are not PDI-P members.

They must allow Jokowi to indicate who he will select as vice president, as his cabinet and his advisers. More than 20 per cent of the vote awaits him if he is successful in building an off-party support base.

Indonesia is the world’s third-largest democracy and the electoral mechanism is good. The voters have to catch up by providing content for the structure. It is ironic that in a democracy created by a reform-minded public, the presidential candidates — except for Jokowi — are people responsible for the human-rights atrocities and rampant corruption that have caused Indonesia to remain hostage to the politics of the Soeharto era. 

Ours is a good democracy with poor voter promotion of the issues and of the public crimes to be avoided. We still make the wrong choices between good and bad.

In 2013 some significant civil society leaders resolved to shed their political apathy. Their NGOs have been doing excellent work through the years but their hard work is neutralized by the stranglehold of politicians-cum-businessmen who protect their behavior ravaging Indonesia’s natural resources, with misguided populist policies and outright greed. Not to mention a total lack of responsibility for human-rights violations committed in the past and present.

These dedicated activists are more intelligent than the legislators but they have not been applying their energy to political reform.

Now they are producing important products like the bersih2014.net website, a handy guide for picking clean legislative candidates.

Efforts like this are very positive, but it may be too little, too late.

Calls for investigations into human-rights violations in the 1998 May riots, the violence of the Trisakti and Semanggi incidents and the assassination of human-rights activists are countered by the full defense of the New Order forces.

Many of the youth today ignore human-rights violations and state corruption.

The quick-count results are a humiliation. It is sad to have violators of human rights and blatant power manipulators performing equally as strongly as a fresh popular leader. It demonstrates a failure to translate Jokowi’s popularity into electoral votes.

It is not too late for remedial action but time is running out. The hopeful public must rescue Jokowi from the weight of the PDI-P position and elevate him to become a leader of the people, not a party mascot donated by Megawati.

To the extent that he can make himself credible as an independent leader, he will be able to leave the PDI-P to their own devices as he responds to the needs of the broad public.

(The writer was a spokesman for the late Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, who was president of Indonesia from 1999 to 2001.)

 

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