The Fiercest Election Ever i

By : elsid_arendra | on 4:56 PM February 07, 2017
Category : Cover Story

Jakarta residents go to the polls on February 15 to elect a new governor who will lead the capital city for another five years. Jakarta, with its population of more than 12 million, is a strategic gateway to the archipelagic nation for trade, business and government.

By GlobeAsia Team


Taking part in this fiercest gubernatorial election ever to be witnessed in the history of Indonesia will be 7,200,000 registered voters. Political pundits say the election resembles a presidential election as the next leader of Jakarta will be seen as a worthy contender in the 2019 presidential election, just as President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo gained his popularity while leading the capital for just two years, before the city’s helm was taken over by Basuki Tjahaja ‘Ahok’ Purnama on November 19, 2014. The candidates – Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and Anies Baswedan - are representatives of the nation’s most powerful political leaders – respectively Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Prabowo Subianto. Each of the candidate pairs has outlined their vision and mission, programs and plans to transform Jakarta.

The Agus vision Agus has revealed 10 programs he’ll implement if he becomes governor, prominent among them a plan to give out cash assistance (BLT) to poor families, communities and small businesses. Other programs he has mentioned are aimed at improving education and the welfare of teachers, better health services, faster economic growth and stabilization of basic food prices. But he has also promised to transform Jakarta into a smart, creative and green city where residents will find security, harmony and social justice. In one of his latest campaign statements, Agus said people should not be afraid of their own governing administration – a reference to the forced evictions which have forced many poor residents out of their homes. “It’s late but I see the energy and spirit of people wanting changes in Jakarta. Jakarta must be advanced, safe, fair and provide welfare to its people,” he said in Kalideres, West Jakarta. He reiterated his commitment that he can build Jakarta without evictions. The BLT handouts promised by the former soldier will give Rp5 million to every poor family, Rp50 million to small businesses and Rp1 billion a year to empower communities.

Ahok: more of the same Ahok, who is currently standing trial on a blasphemy charge, and running mate Djarot Sjaiful Hidayat have been able to campaign with their experience of running the city acting as a foundation for support. Rather than espouse new programs, they have stressed that they would continue bureaucratic reforms and building Jakarta. People, they say, appreciate that it takes time to complete infrastructure projects like the light rail train (LRT) and the mass transportation system (MRT), which they got moving after decades of delays. The incumbents are leading in approval ratings, according to the latest survey by the Populi Center. Its results, published on January 25, put Ahok and Djarot in first place with an approval rating of 36.7%, followed by Anies Baswedan and running mate Sandiaga Uno at 28.5%. Agus and running mate Sylviana Murni ranked last with a rating of 25%. The survey of 600 respondents also saw an increase in the number of undecided voters to 9.8%, from 8.5% in December, following the first gubernatorial debate. “The increase in undecided voters after the debate is a positive sign, as voters seem to have become more realistic, adopting a wait-and-see approach to gauge the performance of all candidates in the upcoming debates before making a decision,” the Populi Center said in a statement. Respondents also ranked the top five problems they believe candidates should address. These were traffic congestion (26.7%), the cost of staple foods (20.5%), unemployment (15%), education (7.8%) and health (7.5%). Public satisfaction with the Jakarta administration had dropped significantly to 68.3% from 72.5% in December following the appointment of the acting governor, Sumarsono. The survey used multi-stage random sampling with a margin of error of approximately 4%.

Anies learns from criticism Anies said after the first debate that he has developed a scenario to attract more supporters. Both he and running mate Sandi have admitted that they have evaluated their performance and studied all the criticism launched at them. “After evaluating the last debate, we are more convinced that Jakarta and its people need social justice and for that we must have an integrated approach,” the former education minister told GlobeAsia at his residence in Lebak Bulus, South Jakarta. Although infrastructure development and the bureaucracy have improved under the incumbents, Anies believes their leadership lacked an integrated communication style. “People who were evicted from their homes have to leave the capital city to settle in low-cost flats. They are confused as they don’t make as much to pay rent compared to where they were before at their previous dwellings,” Anies said. Meanwhile, Sandi said he doesn’t believe in polls after the first debate which put Ahok and Djarot in the lead. “We will improve our performance, build a concept which the incumbents don’t have. We will maintain the previous programs which have been running well as well as improve them for the people,” the businessman said. Anies’ media center head Naufal Firman Yursak mentioned that field visits will be reduced but more internal consolidation will be conducted. “The experts team will continue to give feedback so that Anies and Sandi will be well-prepared until campaigning ends on February 11,” he said, adding that a combination of senior people and youngsters working with social media will absorb more aspirations from the public.

The first debate Heated discussion characterized the first gubernatorial debate at the Bidakara Hotel in South Jakarta on January 13 when the three candidate pairs put forward their plans for the city. Sumarno, head of the Jakarta Election Commission (KPUD), opened the debate, which concentrated on social and economic development in the city. The official debate, televised live nationwide, was aimed at testing the integrity, leadership abilities and levels of commitment by Jakarta’s future leaders to manage the city. Moderated by popular former news anchor Ira Koesno, the debate served as a test of the candidates’ knowledge and as a stage for them to unveil their visions and missions for the capital. Djarot lashed out at candidate pair Agus and Sylviana by questioning the effectiveness of their campaign promise to disburse Rp1 billion in cash aid to local communities. “How do you make sure that people (won’t abuse their responsibilities) and avoid the possibility that they may go to jail?” he asked. Ahok added that the program will not educate the people of Jakarta. Djarot also questioned promises by Sandiaga Uno that he would establish 200,000 new entrepreneurs in the capital, with the city administration playing the role of mentor and providing financial assistance from the regional budget. An energetic but rather emotional Agus said the Rp1 billion in cash aid did not constitute money politics.  He said he is aiming to establish an improved, secure and prosperous city by creating new employment opportunities as well as improving public services such as education, health and transportation. He added that if elected, he would create a sense of security and justice for Jakarta, aside from ensuring inclusive development in the city. “I will stand at the front with Jakartans to create a more modern Jakarta, while still maintaining its character,” Agus said. In his message, Ahok said Jakarta can be improved by developing human resources to reach the same level as the best in global community, based on the Human Development Index. He promised to create a service-oriented, transparent and clean bureaucracy to ensure the future development of the capital. The incumbent conceded that he is often very animated, which sometimes causes misunderstandings, but promised to make even more improvements in the capital than his administration has achieved until now. “We will be better, and the misunderstandings will be avoided (in the future),” Ahok said. Meanwhile Anies Baswedan said his approach to Jakarta was not one of trial-and-error, and the capital was a place where he would serve as a leader, including by developing a more moral city. “We are here to ensure prosperity and justice for all the people of Jakarta,” he said. His first measure would be to create fair employment opportunities and access to quality education for all. He added that he would also have zero tolerance for illicit drugs in Jakarta, which would ensure a safe and peaceful life in the capital.

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The second debate As this magazine was going to print, the chairman of the Jakarta KPUD told GlobeAsia that the second gubernatorial election debate on January 27 would have two moderators to enable them to explore the candidate pairs’ ideas more deeply.  The debate was to be moderated by former news anchor and TV host Tina Talisa and lecturer Eko Prasodjo. It would concentrate on bureaucratic reform, public service and urban planning. The commission also extended the duration of the debate from 90 to 120 minutes.