What Jokowi’s Victory Means for Democracy and Jakarta’s Future
Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s victory over incumbent Fauzi Bowo in Jakarta’s gubernatorial election on Wednesday carries important messages for both the political elites and pundits who often claim to know everything.
The first message is that all the polling and rating agencies were wrong. All of them had predicted Fauzi would win the election, some said in only one round. What they failed to take into account is that voters’ choices are not based solely on popularity, but on concrete progress a candidate has delivered.
The next time I read the results of political surveys in Indonesian newspapers, I will ask myself who paid for this public opinion-shaping project.
The second message is that people want change. Five years in office is too long for government leaders who fail to satisfy the fast-changing aspirations of the public. By the same token, government leaders who realize they cannot deliver should resign and allow better candidates to do what’s best for the nation. Indonesia is notorious for having officials who insist on staying in office even when they cannot perform well.
The third message is that voters’ choices are no longer based on ethnicity, religion or social status. They want those who can introduce change for the better.
Jokowi’s running mate, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or “Ahok,” has Chinese ancestry but it didn’t matter to voters. It was his personal charm and record of successful leadership that mattered.
The fourth message is that huge turnouts at campaign rallies are not a synonym for support. Indonesian voters are not loyal. Even politicians are not truly loyal to their parties.
Politics in the country has lost much of its luster and that is why we are left with political leaders who lack character. Political leaders can easily be “bought” and this is historical. The Dutch knew this and that’s why they were able to occupy the archipelago for 350 years, hand-picking one leader after another.
The kind of leadership convention the Golkar Party held in 2004 has been deemed unacceptable because only the best candidates emerged, denying the affluent a chance to become leaders.
In most cases, our party leaders are the financiers or their agents, so they remain unchallenged for life. The merit system is seen as an obstacle to the political elite whose web of self-interests transcends many sectors of the economy.
The fifth message is that forming public opinion through the mass media is one thing, but getting actual support from the public is quite another. A candidate may receive plenty of news coverage for his statements and official actions, but until he plants trust in people’s hearts, he remains a stranger.
By the same token, all the high-profile image-building campaigns, as evidenced by huge billboards all over the city, are meaningless. You might be handsome after being touched up by Photoshop, but that doesn’t lead to support.
It is not how you look that matters. Thousands of people who surrounded Jokowi rejoiced, not because he gave them money, but because he said: “Even though I cannot give you anything today, here’s what I can give: the spirit for change.”
We change leaders because we want our lives changed for the better. If leaders don’t change our lives, we will find better leaders. If a governor cannot introduce change, fire him. If a president cannot improve our standard of living, remove him. That is the purpose of democracy.
The sixth message is that the game is not over. Jokowi must not be overconfident because anything can happen between now and the Sept. 20 runoff. The biggest factors are the political machines known as the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the Golkar Party and the Democratic Party. Whoever receives the most support from these, whether Jokowi or Fauzi, will win the runoff.
Jokowi and Fauzi will undergo a morality test because at this stage, money can buy public sympathy. Money may sell among opportunistic political elites and some poor segments of society but not in Jakarta, which is influenced by communities seeking to install a clean role model of integrity to lead the capital.
Attempts to buy sympathy from the Jokowi camp will only backfire. People are supporting him with patriotism. Many voters went to the polls wearing copies of his trademark plaid shirt bought with their own money. They like him for being a humble, good-hearted, down-to-earth leader, and a symbol of change.
The seventh message is that this was an example of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) working together. Wednesday’s results show that the ruling Democratic Party and Golkar did not work effectively to support Fauzi and Alex Noerdin.
Pressure on Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie’s presidential candidacy hurt Alex’s chances. And corruption scandals gripping the ruling party, and the silent war between the president and party chairman Anas Urbaningrum, cost Fauzi.
Golkar and the Democratic Party need to get it together or their candidates will lose sympathy and support in the 2014 presidential election.
There is one thing Jokowi must bear in mind if he wins at the polls. Jakarta is not Solo. It is far more expansive than the tiny city of which he has been the mayor. Jakarta needs tough leadership. “Governor Joko Widodo” would have to prove that he is better than Fauzi, otherwise he’ll be sent back to Solo.
The real show — a very tough one — has yet to begin, so don’t smile yet, Jokowi. Fauzi is twisting the end of his moustache as he prepares to face you again.
Pitan Daslani is a senior political correspondent for BeritaSatu Media Holdings. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.