The Thinker: Jakarta’s Race Is Run

By webadmin on 11:33 am Jul 18, 2012
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Yanto Soegiarto

Whether it’s dirty campaigning, money politics or the Prosperous Justice Party throwing its weight behind Jakarta Governor Fauzi “Foke” Bowo’s re-election campaign, the chances of Solo Mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo winning the runoff election next September will not diminish.

Instead, all of this will make him even stronger and more popular — even though there have been accusations that he violated campaign rules, including excessive campaign funding. When Jokowi made a courtesy phone call to Foke after the first quick-count win last Wednesday, the governor did not pick up the phone. Foke then denied Jokowi had called and quipped, “Who did he call, the Fire Department?”

That was a blunder in political communication. Foke was emotional and did not want to concede defeat. Jokowi, on the other hand, gained further sympathy from the people because of the incident.

Unlike other candidates, Jokowi never lashed out at his rivals. Instead, he made simple and honest remarks whenever he spoke. Asked whether he was seeking to form a coalition with other political parties to get more votes, Jokowi said: “I want to forge a coalition with the people, the residents of Jakarta.”

Jokowi has created such a buzz that he is on the verge of winning an election without the usual vote buying and influence seen in other polls. Everywhere, from the kampungs to the middle-class housing complexes, Jakarta residents are talking about the simple, honest, humble and smart man from Solo who emerged at a time when the city was experiencing a leadership crisis, traffic gridlock and other mounting problems. They believe that Jokowi represents what the majority wants, a man who will fulfill their aspirations and free them from the tentacles of poverty, insecurity, poor health and forced evictions.

Jokowi introduced his idea of Jakarta residents having cards giving them access to free health care and education, called Kartu Jakarta Sehat and Kartu Jakarta Pintar. He also assured the less-privileged of hospital access, unlike today’s circumstances requiring people to first obtain a letter from the community chief certifying that they are poor so they can get free health treatment.

“There are three types of [card]: silver, gold and platinum. The platinum card would be for the poorest residents. A student holding a Jakarta Pintar platinum card would be entitled to free textbooks, school uniforms and shoes,” Jokowi said. “We have proved that this scheme works in Solo. Solo is a small city and it needed only Rp 19 billion [$2 million] for this. But Jakarta has more than enough money for it, around Rp 800 billion a year. It’s just not managed right.”

Pundits agree that it will be difficult for Foke to match Jokowi. Political analysts and pollsters have admitted that their predictions and surveys in favor of Foke were wrong. Now they concede that Jokowi is more capable.

He is smart, has a systematic strategy, possess a natural talent for communicating with the people and could very well win, many say. But they also caution that Jakarta’s traditionally mafia-like administration would be a difficult wall to break through.

Jokowi is no stranger to the PKS, as the Prosperous Justice Party is known. Many analysts think it could get in his way. But it was a rare coalition between the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the PKS that installed Jokowi as Solo mayor. Top PKS functionary Hidayat Nur Wahid is actually a very close acquaintance of Jokowi. It would be very difficult for him to betray Jokowi and turn against him in the runoff by siding with Foke.

And if the PKS picks on Jokowi’s ethnic-Chinese running mate, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Basuki will be able to handle it the way he successfully handled hard-line groups in Bangka-Belitung after he was elected district head there in 2005. Politics often don’t recognize who’s a real friend or foe. Sometimes money is the real friend. But Jokowi knows that and he believes that it’s the people who get to pick their leaders. And as long as they vote with their hearts, they will pick leaders who represent them in accordance with their conscience.

Yanto Soegiarto is the managing editor of Globe Asia, a sister publication of the Jakarta Globe.