Will Indonesia follow path of change after local elections?

Indonesia is experiencing tremendous changes after the June 27, 2018 regional elections, the votes were held to elect 17 governors, 39 mayors and 115 regents across the country.

Will Indonesia follow path of change after local elections?

Mohamad Radytio – Indonesia

While it is true that there is no clear winner, yet there is a clear loser. The ruling Democratic Indonesian Party-Struggle (PDI-P) of President Joko Widodo lost the elections in 13 out of 17 regions that went to poll on June 27 and result of which declared on July 07. Even in the provinces where they won, such as Maluku and Central Java, their victory could only be achieved with the support of parties that usually are their ideological opponents in national politics. This is despite PDI-P’s winning coalition was supported by former president Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party and Partai Persatuan Pembangunan, an Islamic-oriented party.

The same happened in Maluku region. President Widodo’s candidate, Police General Murad Ismail, was able to defeat the incumbent candidate only with the help of Prabowo Subianto’s Partai Gerindra, which is actually Widodo’s strongest national opposition in parliament and most-likely challenger in next year’s presidential election. In East Java, where the PDIP-endorsed gubernatorial candidate was the previous deputy governor of the province and the deputy governor’s candidate was the granddaughter of Soekarno, ideological father of PDIP and one of Indonesia’s founding father was defeated by more than 5 % margin, a shocking result considering the combined legislative strength of the party coalition in East Java. In short, PDIP’s strength is dwindling in the province.

A big surprise came from West Java, the second largest province by electorates. There, opposition coalition’s candidate Rtd. General Sudrajat of Gerindra got nearly 29 % of the votes, despite during the campaign being expected to get only 4-10 % in all opinion polls taken by most of the research institutes and pollsters. It is remarkable achievement of Sudrajat because his main opponents are all former mayors or bupati (county commissioners), the winner Ridwan Kamil got nearly 33% votes. Jokowi-supported and media darling Ridwan Kamil is a household name with international recognition, received many awards during his tenure as the mayor of Bandung, West Java’s capital and largest city. His running mate is a traditional cleric who was also an incumbent bupati. The other candidate, Deddy Mizwar, is a former deputy governor with a national fame, his political parties’ coalition comprised of the Golkar and Democrats, parties with vast resources and big networks. In comparison, Sudrajat never hold any public office. His profile as a CEO of small regional airline, a former ambassador, spokesman of the armed forces, and Prabowo’s right-hand man. Moreover, Sudrajat was only entered the gubernatorial race in December 2017, with polls claimed he has only 4 % name recognition in West Java as of January 2018. And while his running mate, Ahmad Syaikhu, is having stellar record as an incumbent deputy mayor of a city, a former top state financial auditor and Al-Hafiz (memorizer of the holy Quran), he had the same mediocre name recognition as Sudrajat. During the campaign, both Ridwan Kamil and Dedy Mizwar were getting repeated media attention and rolling out media-endorsed election pledges with both of them took pride in their tenure as elected official. Sudrajat and Syaikhu, on the other side, received little media recognition and relied on the Islamic clerical support and #gantipresiden, a reference on the movement to defeat Widodo in the 2019 presidential election. Furthermore, they effectively used social media and machineries of PKS as campaign tools. Yet, against all odds, the opposition coalition managed to give an impressive performance.

As for the opposition, they gained mixed results. Opposition formed the coalition with minor political parties’ against Widodo’s coalition to win in certain regions. Nevertheless, judging from preliminary results, opposition parties (Gerindra, PKS, PAN and Berkarya) won in more areas than the governing coalition, with their affiliate candidates winning in more than half the regions contested. Although opposition manage to shrink the Widodo’s lead in the East, West and Central Java yet the combined vote of Widodo is still moderately high in the three provinces which combined have close to half of the voters in Indonesia.

However, we should never discount the Widodo, throughout his reign, Jokowi presented himself as a nice, patient, open-minded, down-to-earth person while in the backstage, he use every trick known in politics to bring down his opponents. Take the cases of head of the Islamic Council Maruf Amin, former chairman of Prabowo’s 2014 unsuccessful presidential campaign, Mahfud MD and former president Yudhoyono, for examples. In January 2017, there were reports with strong suspicion that government wiretapped both men’s cellphones. While the police refused to act on the reports, gradually both the Men stopped all their criticism against the government’s excesses. Now, Maruf Amin is the part of Jokowi-formed “BPIP/Pancasila board” with Rp 112 million ($ 8,500) per month salary, a big amount for a country whose per capita income is only $ 4,000 per annum. Mahfud MD, turning from friend to foe, is now part of Jokowi’s BPIP with the same amount of salary. Now, Mahfud often appear in numerous television interviews and talk shows singing praise for the president and throw accusations against Prabowo & PKS. Yudhoyono, meanwhile, toned down his rhetoric and even offered his eldest son and political heir Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono to be Widodo’s running mate in 2019. What would be the content of their phone conversation that were taken by the hackers would probably forever be unknown, yet it seems that it was so damaging that managed to pacify both of them.

It is true that in Indonesia the voting pattern in national election is not the same as the local elections still it can be said that with the correct candidate, broad issues, cohesiveness of PKS-Gerindra-PAN coalition and activists’ resilience and intelligence, the opposition could manage to pull a victory in the next year’s national election. It remains to be seen whether opposition which has managed to shrink the lead margin of Widodo in local election will carry on with the spirited campaign and give a blow to Widodo or Indonesians will reelect the incumbent President.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Temmuz 2018, 11:15