How Jakarta Gubernatorial Election Alters The Political Landscape of Indonesia

This has to be one of the most anticipated election in Indonesia’s political recent history. And it is not for presidency.

Much of the fuss surrounding the matter, I believe, are associated with Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama’s  blasphemy trial. With all due respect to Mr. Anies and Mr. Agus, the election wouldn’t be under as colossal of scrutiny as this if not for the controversy upon the incumbent figure. Since his infamous speech in last September, Indonesia have seen rising religious intolerance, growing discrimination and attacks against religious minorities, and emerged provocative article everywhere that may compromise the country’s democratic value.

Approaching the problem in hand, we shall find most of us fall into two categories, “pro-Ahok progressive” and “anti-Ahok conservatives”. The former’s opinion are constructed upon putting more emphasize on one’s humanist and pluralist point of view regarding the incumbent. Meanwhile, the latter are strictly connected with a huge mass of certain religion group that condemns Ahok’s controversial reference to the Quran. The extreme polarization between the two sides cause the hope of construction dialogue between the two sides starting to vanish.

The two constantly taking a jab at other’s chin to get a physicological advantage over the others heading to the election next month. The most interesting part, however, is the fact that most of these buzzers or so-called suporters don’t have voting right for the election. Yes, you heard it right. Many do not live in or near Jakarta, but they have the audacity to partake and voice their opinion upon the matter. The fact portrays how much scrutiny it is under the national audience. Therefore it is safe to say that Jakarta Gubernatorial Election (might) plays integral role in the country’s politic development.

The question is, how much?

1. Global connectivity bred an intolerance cyber movement

The big turning point for the FPI was its success in mobilizing and organizing thousands of people in relatively ‘peaceful’ anti-Ahok rallies on Nov. 4 and Dec. 2. The protests did not degenerate into chaos as many had feared, and other big Islamic organizations and ulema even showed sympathy and support for them. But the true objective of FPI pictures or videos on organizing a rally on Twitter and Facebook is not to shock the authority; the purpose is to recruit like-minded zealots for their cause. The propaganda is designed to encourage like-minded communities to support the organization.

People want their beliefs to be affirmed and they want to demonize the opposition at every turn. Social media platforms reinforce “us versus them” narratives, expose vulnerable people to destructive ideologies and even intensify long-dormant hatreds. The outcome of such conflicts will be determined heavily by activities in cyberspace. False news on social media are made to divide communities. Worryingly, the more extreme the personality and sensibility of the author, the more popular he or she or a group is on social media.

Like it or not, Cyberspace is the future of political wars on the country. A political trajectory by the Government’s opposition party will be founded under the beliefs that social media is the new platform to promote an ideologies (and unfortunately, hoaxes) for those who seek change. 2019 Presidential Election will be its next target.

2. 2019 Presidential Election War Rehearsal

When AHY and Sylviana Murni were announced as Democrat’s governor candidate, I realized one thing without a dot of quandary. It was how the country’s political veterans try to put their hand in the election, with their eyes set on 2019.

SBY, Prabowo, and Megawati. Three of the most well known name in the country. Three giants at the pinnacle of the nation’s political food chains. Indonesia is a democratic country where the sovereignty of power are comprised of multitude of political players vying for legitimate power. The three pair of candidates in this election is just a pawn for their respective party, albeit a very important one. Like a chess grandmaster, the three political vets will certainly play a huge role to determine the outcome of the result through exchanges of provocative remarks, political coalition, and black campaign.

And let’s be serious, is there any better preparation stage for Presidency than Jakarta Gubernatorial Election? SBY, Prabowo, and Megawati are the country’s best political strategist. Whether any of them win or lose, the rehearsal for the national audience would have been accomplished perfectly by exposing the candidates under national’s scrutiny. The official debate held by KPU last week was broadcasted on 6 national television live. What can be a better publication than that?

As we acknowledge it altogether, PDIP and Golkar are still the most dominant party in the parliament with them holding a live access to the 3 most important position on the country (President, Vice President, and The Capital’s Governor). Both parties are then neutralized with the existence of the Government’s opposition party who put Gerindra as its frontman. Then, there are old conventional parties who try to seek the throne they have lost in recent years (Demokrat, PAN) and try to stay relevant by nominating their own candidate on the capital’s governor election.

Things could change, but I don’t think the script in 2019 would look that different from the one we have currently. The grave concern for political identity (which fueled by racial and religious issues) only gets worse every time and there is no healing for that  wound unless the public have common enemy that may lead them astray from the conflict we currently have.

3. The growing of public distrust on political parties (and leaning to candidate’s integrity)

For almost a decade of SBY’s tenure, Indonesian public have been at major distrust over the political parties. Today, it reaches a new all-time high. The cynical towards them has constantly increased but thankfully, it has now shifted into the increasing faith on the executive government. The altered trend has been started in the 2014 Presidential election when the moral integrity and humility of President Joko Widodo (who was also considered as the govt outsider) triumphed over the colossal party movement and long time supporter behind the former military general Mr. Prabowo Subianto.

This year, many of us view the disrupt of conventional political approach. Starting from the riot surrounding Governor Ahok who initially tried to run for the election independently through his #KTPGueBuatAhok campaign (albeit it failed in the end), it taught us one thing. Never ever underestimate public’s ignorance for stupidity. Political parties simply have very limited power nowadays to rally public’s opinion by controlling the media as public’s information source like it used to in 1990s. Having the ability to access every information known to the candidate at our fingertips, the emergence of Internet has trumped the circulation of controlled “conventional” media.

This is why many people view Ahok so mighty in this election. The public has already fell in love with his persona, even if many people confronts his policy and leadership style. As for political parties, maybe this is the perfect time for reflection.

4. The maturity phase of Indonesia’s democratic value

Since the outbreak of the controversy surrounding Governor Ahok, who happens to be a Christian of ethnic Chinese descent, a rallying cry of, “Don’t vote for a non-Muslim candidate!” has gotten so out of control that it threatens to impair the meritocratic principle of our democracy. Democracy itself can be explained as a notion that power should be vested in individuals exclusively based on ability and talent without any reference to his or her personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, religion and gender.

Will the democracy value that we have been hold on for so long finally get into the maturity phase? Or will it be compromised for failing to conform the acceptable norm among the society? We don’t know the answer at the moment. What we know is that this election will be remarked as the milestone of democratic development in the country, for Indonesia citizen never face such condition in which it oppose the value that it has held on to for so long.

5. How to reunite?

So, the crucial question is how should we reconcile together and put aside the whole beef in the last couple of months when the election is over? Should the incumbent wins the election, will the extremist hardline who have made themselves amply clear their intention to imprison Ahok accept the result gently? And should the result have Anies or Agus as the Governor, will the conservative liberals (who mostly support the incumbent) rally behind their back to help improving the capital?

Honestly, I don’t think either side would. There will always be a small or medium portion of both sides who will keep firing the hatred toward one another. However, I think that those of us who firmly believe in pluralism and tolerance must do our best to resist that kind of primordial shift into our public opinion. Any quick fix, such as banning hardline groups, is not only undemocratic, but it would also amount to surrendering our convictions, and once we choose to go down that path, we’ll ultimately contradict the very essence of our values.

Because post-election is the most crucial stages of all. It tests our level of maturity to sit together with our opposition in one room to figure out what’s best for the city we love. Many recognized Jakarta to be the capital which filled with millions of intellect with access to the best technology and city infrastructure this nation ever have. With such, Jakarta is seen like that big brother who is wiser and richer than any other cities and provinces and hence he sets example. If even people of Jakarta fail to put aside their agenda and political belief for the sake collective interest, I can’t see why other cities wouldn’t.

The next 2019 presidential election will prove to be integral whether the public can really recover from the wound it has suffered due to the campaign that will take place in less than 24 months. One thing for sure, 2019 will be massive but highly unlikely will it be as controversial as the one we have right now. 2017 Jakarta Gubernatorial Election will forever leave its mark on history as the election that alters the overall political landscape of Indonesia. Whether it is for the better or worse, it is ours to decide.

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