There may be bad news for political elites who for too long have been in the comfort zone of centrist Jakarta. With Solo Mayor Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, and former Bangka District Head Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, nominated as candidates for Jakarta’s governor and deputy governor, their popularity might exceed incumbent candidates when the polls open next July.
It is true that popularity doesn’t always make leaders in Indonesian politics. Unpopular politicians have become presidents, vice presidents, governors, district heads and ministers. But times have changed — popularity can only be achieved by someone if he or she is close to the people, listens to their aspirations and promotes their welfare. And that is exactly what the people of Jakarta, who have become very rational, democratic and adaptive to changes, need now.
Incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo, or Foke, currently has the support of the ruling Democratic Party and influential businessmen. But none of this support necessarily guarantees his re-election. If you asked around during the last gubernatorial election, practically all the district chiefs — Pak RT, Pak RW, and the community leaders — were told to influence people to vote for “Foke or bust.” That experience has actually lowered his electability. Besides, during his term, Foke has not done much in the interest of the majority of people of Jakarta.
What has Foke given to promote welfare of the people? Not much. There have been many forced evictions. Traditional markets have disappeared to make way for malls. Pasar Mayestik and Pasar Blok M, the symbol of people’s livelihood in South Jakarta, are now gone. The roads of Jakarta are of very poor in quality and, at some places, pose a danger for motorcyclists. Neck-high floods inundate large parts of Jakarta during the rainy season. Development of a mass transportation system has also stopped, pending a new government tender. All these sum up more sufferings of the people.
The nomination of Jokowi and Ahok is very promising. They have a good track record of being the people’s leaders, and their possible nomination has created a buzz. People believe that the pair will have fresh ideas on governing the capital city, although their political base is not that strong compared to other candidates.
In this regard, we refer to the nomination of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chief Abraham Samad who comes from Makassar, South Sulawesi. Abraham was a lesser known candidate compared to his competitors — and he won. The nomination of Jokowi and Ahok can also replicate Abraham’s success story. The people of Jakarta want changes and not the same old promises Foke and his predecessors have made.
Jokowi’s populist approach in governing Solo won national praises. He successfully relocated street vendors and people’s markets with a persuasive approach (although it took him more than fifty meetings with the people to court them). They listened. Jokowi also advanced Solo as a tourism city, and improved the city’s transportation system. Being different from other leaders, Jokowi is a nationalist, honest, and very down to earth. He communicates with people of all walks of life very well.
Meanwhile, Ahok was the first ethnic-Chinese who was elected as district head of Bangka Belitung. Although he is from the Golkar party, Ahok will be able to represent the aspirations of the ethnic-Chinese people of Jakarta. And although he’s relatively young for a politician, Ahok has tremendous experience in public office. As a businessman who spent most of his time trying to promote the welfare of people in Bangka Belitung, Ahok never gave up. He provided free education from elementary school to high school and subsidized healthcare. A geologist, Ahok is known to be good in managing bureaucracy. He is also a nationalist figure who has never ceased to accommodate the aspirations of the people.
Jakarta used to be a stronghold for the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P). Although PDI-P senior executive Taufik Kiemas prefers a blend of Democratic Party-supported Foke and PDI-P’s own Adang Ruchiatna, former President Megawati Sukarnoputri is still the one who calls the shots. The founder of Gerindra, Prabowo Subianto, and Megawati have finally come to terms and nominated Jokowi and Ahok for the gubernatorial race as the two candidates officially registered at the Jakarta branch of the General Elections Commission (KPU) on Monday afternoon.
The official nomination of Jokowi and Ahok, after both parties’ officials vetted a number of other possible candidates, could be a breakthrough for the capital city as the gateway to Indonesia’s democracy.