In every election going back to 1999, the Prosperous Justice Party has sent its members out canvassing votes door-to-door. The method is hardly new, and the party known as PKS believes it is effective.
Ahead of Jakarta’s July 11 gubernatorial election, PKS faithful are duly pounding the pavement once again, visiting homes two or three times to tell residents about their candidate, Hidayat Nur Wahid, and his running mate, Didik J. Rachbini.
Igo Ilham from PKS says the party also went around canvassing votes before the 2007 gubernatorial election, when its candidate, Adang Daradjatun, put up a spirited challenge to Fauzi Bowo, the eventual winner.
“We lost the race, but we managed to get 43 percent,” Igo says. “It was PKS against all the other parties backing Fauzi. Now the parties have split up to support their own candidates, so PKS has a very good chance.”
This time around, the members have been canvassing votes, a practice they call “direct selling,” since mid-May.
Dudy Rusnaedy, 30, one of the 50,000 PKS footsoldiers expected to visit a combined one million homes, says they started out “to inform and remind people that Jakarta is approaching its momentous period, the gubernatorial election.”
As soon as the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPUD) made the official announcement of the tickets registered to run, the members deployed once again.
“On June 14, we started to meet people again, door-to-door,” says Dudy, who is self-employed. “We introduced Hidayat and Didik, explained their programs and answered questions. Once they express their support for Hidayat and Didik, we keep them updated.”
Last Tuesday, Hidayat went to Senen in Central Jakarta to oversee a mass circumcision for 50 boys from low-income families, while Didik went to Mangga Besar, in West Jakarta, to meet with slum residents.
He pledged to put an end to traffic jams, floods, poverty and pollution. He also promised free 12-year basic education, as well as free health care.
“The leader today has failed, so will you still vote for him?” Didik reasoned.
He also said he and Hidayat would work hard to nurture entrepreneurship in the capital in a bid to create 500,000 new jobs, and promised monthly funding of up to Rp 1 million for neighborhood units and Rp 1.25 million for community units.
“So are you all going to pray for us? Are you going to support us on July 11?” Didik asked the cheering crowd, who responded with a loud “Yes!”
Sri Rejeki, 40, a mother of two, said the programs proposed by Hidayat and Didik were exactly what she wanted. “I need free education for my children, and medical services. Besides, PKS also teaches my second son to read the Koran, so I have no reason not to vote for PKS,” she said.
Hidayat has been with PKS since its founding in 1998 as the Justice Party (PK). He chaired PK from 2000 to 2002, when it became PKS, and then led the new-look party until 2004.
Didik, an economist, hails from the National Mandate Party (PAN), another Islam-based party. He served on the industry oversight commission at the House of Representatives from 2004-09, and now spends much of his time lecturing at universities.
Marjuan Bakrie, the pair’s deputy campaign coordinator, says that although the PAN is officially supporting Fauzi, many PAN officials are backing Hidayat.
“Didik has a wide range of supporters in the PAN and other places, including universities,” he says.
Marjuan believes both men have the charisma to win over voters and garner a substantial share of the votes come July 11. Besides appealing to low-income voters through their proposed programs, they also touch a chord with better-educated voters because of their academic credentials, he adds.
“Hidayat has extensive experience at the national level as well as the international level,” he goes on. “He knows how to be friends with all communities.”
PKS has a loyal following in the capital. With 18 seats in the 94-seat City Council, it is the second-biggest party here after the Democratic Party, which has 32 seats and is backing Fauzi.
But this does not guarantee Hidayat a solid showing in the election, says Burhanuddin Muhtadi, a political analyst from the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) and author of “Dilema PKS: Suara atau Syariah” (“The PKS Dilemma: Votes or Sharia”).
“It’s going to be tough,” he says, pointing out that the PKS today is not as strong as it was in 2007.
Back then, it also had 18 council seats, but that was when the City Council only had 75 seats.
“And don’t forget that a lot of people turned to the PKS back then because it was anti-status quo. This time there are several candidates going against the incumbent, so people have more options,” he added.
The party has also suffered from a string of controversies and corruption allegations, Burhanuddin says.
Ade Herdiana, 22, a university student, is one such voter. He says that although once considered voting for Hidayat, he was put off by other PKS officials such as Tifatul Sembiring, the communications minister.
He also says the pair’s slew of promises is unrealistic. “Too much usually leads to something not good,” he said.
Another obstacle is that despite the party’s promise to shore up pluralism, many middle-class voters identify the party as too staunchly conservative, Hanta says.
This is in line with the results of a survey released by the National Survey Institute (LSN) on Tuesday that showed that Islam-based parties, including the PKS, were losing popularity.
Igo, though, says the opinion polls are touted by their opponents to throw Hidayat and Didik off balance. “We are very sure that the PKS will make it to a second round of voting,” he says.