Celebrity Politicians’ Star Power Derails Indonesian Politics: Joko
Abdul Qowi Bastian
Indonesian celebrities have hijacked the electoral process, Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo warned on Thursday in a speech criticizing what he called a common shortcut to office.
“Political parties have been taking shortcuts, [it's] an indication of the poor political recruitment system,” Joko said at a National Defense Institute Foundation (Lemhanas) seminar in Jakarta on Thursday.
The newly elected governor, widely seen as a reformer, told the crowd he was “concerned” with the phenomenon, explaining that many celebrities lack the experience needed to serve in government. In direct elections, political parties often rely on celebrities’ clout to push through less popular candidates.
It’s become a common practice in Indonesian politics where dozens of politicians got their start in the entertainment industry.
Among the celebrity turned lawmakers are former actor Primus Yustisio, comedian Eko “Patrio” and model Venna Melinda.
It is an open secret that political parties use celebrities to market lesser-known candidates, said Dedi Gumelar, a former comedian and lawmaker the Indonesian Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
“We have to admit that political parties still recruit members who do not have proven track records,” Dedi said. “Political parties ‘hire’ celebrities who lack political and social experience as vote-getters and marketing tools.”
It is a system that needs to change, Dedi said.
“What Pak Jokowi said is right, but unfortunately he was generalizing,” he said. “It’s not that celebrities cannot run for governor or district heads, but they have to have proven track records.
“As long as they have the capability and capacity, there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Joko urged political parties to reform their nominee systems to select those best suited to lead, not merely the most popular candidate.
“We must re-arrange our political recruitment [system], we must re-arrange [the nominations] of regional heads and the national recruitment system,” he said, according to the Indonesian news portal republika.co.id
In an odd twist, Joko threw his support behind former actress and West Java Governor candidate Rieke Diah Pitaloka on Thursday. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) candidate entered Indonesia’s political sphere in 1999 under the National Awakening Party (PKB).
She is preparing to run in the gubernatorial race with anti-corruption activist Teten Masduki, the former secretary-general of Transparency International Indonesia.
“[The party’s choice] is based on the results of a survey about who the people of West Java want,” Joko said.
The popular governor is advising Rieke on campaign strategies similar to those that won him the Jakarta governor’s seat.
“But West Java is a larger area, so surely there will be some modifications,” he said.
Dedi admitted that celebrities might not make for the best politicians, but said he was ready to work for his party.
“Rieke and I are
quite popular with the masses,” he said. “We’re not the best politicians out
there, but we’re [the people who are] ready to compete.”