The Jokowi Effect: No Breakthrough Against Oligarchy

Jokowi-Presidential-Candidate

Indonesia’s party machinery has dimmed the prospect of real change. Photo liputan6.com.

I was wrong. The media was wrong. The polls were wrong. There is no Jokowi Effect. Or maybe there is one, but it is not strong enough to break the stranglehold Indonesia’s party oligarchy has on the electorate.

 PDIP’s position in the early quick counts show a lukewarm share of less than 20%. It is still higher than the others to claim the number one ranking, but not qualitatively different from Golkar, Gerindra.

It is an anticlimax for the frenzy which seemed to building around Jokowi’s emergence as the probably presidential candidate of Megawati’s PDIP. Predictions that PDIP would capture 35 percent or more in the legislative elections proved to be grossly illusory as they got less than 20 percent, just a few more percentage points more than Golkar, Gerindra and even the Democrat Party.

There is no doubt that Jokowi is a percentage booster for PDIP, but that shows two things. PDIP must be in dire straits to achieve such mediocre results, which means they would do really poorly without Jokowi. The second thing is that Jokowi will not necessarily win against Gerindra, whose weakness is in in public morality and not in perseverance and intelligence.

Jokowi backers might have the morality but not the will to win, as they are not investing in the Jokowi candidacy by voting for the party that will launch him.

But my friend A, a keen political observer, points out that for her, PDIP’s debacle is a blessing in disguise. She is in fact relieved that PDIP got a modest 20% and not a thumping 35%, because it confirms her view that Indonesian politics will not be reformed by just a single individual but by elimination of the political oligarchy. Jokowi gives hope to the Indonesian public, but PDIP is the same old story of a party failing to modernize, clinging to an archaic leadership exemplified by subservience to Ibu Megawati.

Jokowi has been a good little cadre, but the party has let him down.

Jokowi has been a good little cadre, but the party has let him down.

As writer Goenawan Mohamad pointed out in his tweet, whether or not there is a Jokowi Effect, he is more popular than his political party. And that, in my friend’s view is good because we need to reject the party’s adherence to old tired politics. Now Jokowi has the choice to either break loose from Megawati’s control or remain a party tool to rescue PDIP from oblivion.

PDIP have to play the coalition game now, bringing business as usual back to be  the mode of political power building. They are not the party of the people but the party of blind loyalists, unless they cut Jokowi loose and encourage him to mobilize the good people of t he land, most of whom are not PDIP members. Have Jokowi indicate who he will select as VP, as his cabinet and his advisers. More than 20% awaits him if he is successful in building an off-party support base.

Indonesian is the third largest democracy in the world and the electoral mechanism is good. The voters have to catch up by providing content to the structure. It is ironic that a democracy that has been created by a reform minded public, the presidential candidates – except for Jokowi – are people who are responsible for the human rights atrocities and rampant corruption that have caused Indonesia to remain hostage to the politics of the Suharto era.

Ours is a good democracy with poor voter socialization on the issues and on the public crimes to be avoided. We still make the wrong choices between good and bad.

 In 2013 some significant civil society leaders resolved to shed their political apathy. Their NGOs have been doing excellent work through the years but their hard work is neutralized by the stranglehold of politicians cum businessmen who protect their behavior in ravaging Indonesia’s forests, misguided populist policies and outright greed. Not to mention total lack of responsibility for human rights committed in the past and present. These dedicated activists are more intelligent than DPR legislators but they have not been applying their energy to political reform. Now they are producing important like the bersih2014.net website, a handy guide to pick out clean legislative candidates. Efforts like this are very positive, but it may be too little and too late. Calls for investigation of human rights violation in the1998 May riots, the violence of the Trisakti and Semanggi incidents and the assassinations of human rights activists are countered by full defense of New Order forces. Many of the youth today ignore human rights violation and state corruption.

The quick count results are a humiliation. It’s sad to have violators of human rights and blatant power manipulators show equal strength as a fresh popular leader. It demonstrates failure to translate Jokowi’s popularity into electoral votes.

It is not too late for remedial action but time is running out. The hopeful public must rescue Jokowi from the weight of the PDIP position and elevate him into a leader of the people, not the party mascot donated by Megawati. To the extent that he can make himself credible as an independent leader, he will be able to leave the PDIP to their own concerns as he responds to the needs of the broad public.

Wimar Witoelar served as the spokesperson for Gus Dur in Indonesia’s first elected government and is a longstanding analyst of Indonesian politics. He is a consultant for InterMatrix communications.

About Wimar Witoelar