It’s a sweltering Saturday afternoon at Soemantri Brodjonegoro Stadium in Kuningan, South Jakarta, and Rhoma Irama, the “king of dangdut,” is belting out the hits to keep the crowd electrified.
“Who are you going to vote for on July 11?” Bang Haji, as the veteran musician is popularly known, called out to the tens of thousands between songs. “Vote for the No. 1 ticket, Fauzi-Nachrowi, and keep Jakarta united.”
Saturday’s gathering is the official campaign rally for Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo for next week’s re-election bid. The message from Rhoma — and the main point echoed by Fauzi’s campaign team — is the need for continuity to ensure the success of programs already under way.
Fauzi, the team says, has worked hard to address many of the city’s chronic problems, including transportation and flooding. Makmun Amin, the campaign team chief, tells the Jakarta Globe that since being elected in 2007, Fauzi has dedicated himself to making the capital a more comfortable place to live in.
“That’s why Fauzi’s vision and mission for 2012-2017 is to make Jakarta more developed, comfortable and prosperous,” Makmun says. “It’s about continuation.”
He adds that his team expects to win the election in a single round.
“We take all our rivals seriously, but people know Fauzi already and he has a very wide voter base,” Makmun says.
Developed, comfortable, prosperous
Fauzi pressed home this point during a speech to a plenary session of the City Council last week, reminding the councilors that he was not a new face to them and that they should know what he was capable of delivering.
Jakarta, he said, needs strong leadership from someone “with integrity, competence and experience. And one who knows Jakarta in detail.”
Fauzi and his running mate, Nachrowi Ramli, the chairman of the Democratic Party’s Jakarta chapter, have been selling themselves to voters on the fact that both were born and raised in the city.
Nachrowi, speaking to the crowd in Kuningan during the weekend, points out that Fauzi has worked for the Jakarta administration for 40 years.
“He knows where the rat hole is, he knows where all the holes are that need to be fixed,” he says.
The pair is also trying to convince voters that whatever the other candidates are offering, Fauzi has already delivered it.
“The others have promised to provide free education, but I’ve already done that,” the incumbent says. “Others are promising health cards, but I’ve already given you the medicine. They say they’re going to tackle flooding? But we’ve already saved 2.7 million people from floods with the East Flood Canal project.”
Fauzi’s opponents, however, have pointed out that the canal is administered by the central government and not the Jakarta authorities.
Fauzi insists that nonetheless, Jakarta residents will enjoy a better city with a second term for himself. He promises a “more developed” capital through the construction of six new inner-city toll roads and the mass rapid transit rail line.
He also promises a “more comfortable” future by increasing the number of parks and amount of green space, improving water supply and sanitation, revitalizing slum areas and clamping down on pollution.
Fauzi is also touting a “more prosperous” Jakarta where everyone has full access to education, health care and economic opportunities.
Hayati, a 42-year-old mother of two from North Jakarta, says she is satisfied with the incumbent’s programs so far and will vote for him again come July 11.
“He’s been to our neighborhood twice now, and I like him,” she says. “My kids go to school for free and I pay only Rp 2,000 to get medicine at the community health center, thanks to his programs. He’s been working for five years. I’ll vote for him so that he can continue his programs.”
While some cheer Fauzi’s achievements, others are not convinced that there is much to cheer about in the first place.
If anything, says Yunarto Wijaya, a political expert from the consultancy Charta Politika, Fauzi’s administration can only be seen as a failure.
He argues that if Fauzi is only now promising to build the MRT and roll out free 12-year basic education, “What has he been doing for the past five years?”
Yunarto adds that no major improvements have been achieved under Fauzi’s direction, while the problem of traffic has only become worse and other chronic woes continue to linger.
“Fauzi’s promises are only projections, which would have been achieved by now” under a competent governor, he argues.
City councilors, too, have been left unimpressed. Ida Mahmudah, chairwoman of the council’s Commission A overseeing development affairs, says most of the progress came during Fauzi’s fourth and fifth years in office.
Andrinof Chaniago, an analyst from the University of Indonesia, says the promises of free education and health care could have been fulfilled long ago if the administration had allocated more funding from the city budget, which this year stands at Rp 36 trillion ($3.8 billion). The city is seeking an additional Rp 5 trillion.
“Jakarta’s annual budget is huge, so people deserve such services,” he says.
He adds that if voters pause to reflect objectively on Fauzi’s time in office, they will be disappointed with his leadership.
Budi Siswanto, Fauzi’s campaign secretary, says the changes need time. Resolving traffic, he says, is contingent on acquiring land to build roads, which is a convoluted issue in its own right, while free education has to meet certain standards before it can be offered to the public.
Both Yunarto and Andrinof agree that Fauzi enjoys strong support, particularly among low-income voters, but not enough for the incumbent to win the election in only one round.
“The polls that give them 50 percent of votes are just part of a campaign ploy to shape public opinion,” Andrinof says.
Yunarto says it will take greater participation by middle-income and educated voters in the election to thwart Fauzi’s bid for another five years in City Hall.
Deni Purwanto, 29, an entrepreneur from East Jakarta, plans to do just that by going out to cast his vote.
“Jakarta needs a change,” he says. “The incumbent has failed. What did he say about improvements? All he’s done is continue what the previous governor did.”