Disenchanted with politics-as-usual, Indonesians pine for change

The face of politics is changing, thanks to a stronger role for the media – and a new crop of candidates who know how to harness it.

By Elisabeth Oktofani for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

February 16, 2013
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With one year to go before the 2014 presidential election, Indonesians appear to be in the mood for change. Polls show a relative newcomer – Jakarta governor Joko Widodo (nicknamed Jokowi) – ahead of other potential candidates, including several well-established figures.

  • Governor Joko Widodo (centre, with microphone) gestures as he speaks at a press conference in Jakarta on September 20th, 2012. Polls show the 51-year-old governor beating out most other potential candidates for the 2014 presidential election, in what analysts say is another sign that Indonesian politics is changing. [Adek Berry/AFP].

    Governor Joko Widodo (centre, with microphone) gestures as he speaks at a press conference in Jakarta on September 20th, 2012. Polls show the 51-year-old governor beating out most other potential candidates for the 2014 presidential election, in what analysts say is another sign that Indonesian politics is changing. [Adek Berry/AFP].

The results reflect an ongoing trend in Indonesian politics, analysts say. The traditional party machinery is losing its potency as a new generation of media-savvy politicians is better able to harness public opinion.

Citizens, meanwhile, are increasingly distrustful of political elites and determined to elect politicians who will remain close to their interests.

In its latest opinion survey, Pusat Data Bersatu (PDB) polled 1,200 respondents from 30 provinces. Jokowi garnered 21.2% support, the largest percentage for all the potential candidates. Behind him were several political veterans -- former vice president Jusuf Kalla, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, Great Indonesian Movement (Gerindra) Party figure Prabowo Subianto, and Golkar Party Chairman Abu Rizal Bakrie, among others.

Didik J. Rachbini, a political expert at PDB, said the results showed a clear trend.

"Citizens want a new figure for the 2014 presidential election, and it appears that Jokowi is that figure," Didik told Khabar Southeast Asia. However, he added, the rising political star will first need to demonstrate a strong performance in his current job, including by taking charge of the flooding situation in Jakarta.

Media appeal becoming crucial

Burhanuddin Muhtadi, a political analyst with the Indonesian Survey Institute (Lembaga Survey Indonesia/LSI), agreed that the electorate wants someone new.

"Citizens are looking for a figure who is firm, has no distance from the citizens, [and is] unpretentious," he told reporters.

Jokowi's popularity has swelled since he took over the city governorship, a role which brings frequent media appearances, Burhanuddin said. Moreover, he added, the governor has received positive coverage of his education and health care initiatives, the Kartu Jakarta Pintar (Jakarta Education Card/KJP) and Kartu Jakarta Sehat (Jakarta Health Card/KJS).

The KJP provides students with as much as Rp 240,000 ($25) per month for education-related expenses such as books, uniforms, and transportation. Bank DKI refills the card every month with provincial government funds. Similarly, the KJS provides free health care access, especially for those in need.

Although previous governors ran similar initiatives, Jokowi has proven particularly effective at making citizens aware of them, Burhanuddin said.

"He knows how to maintain public optimism," he said.

Jokowi is not the first politician in this mold, the analyst said. Indonesia's current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, demonstrated a similar appeal during his campaign eight years ago, relying more on a strong media presence than on the traditional workings of party machinery.

"Back in 2004, President Susilo became a media darling with his personality and intellect. He is also very friendly with the media," he added. In general, he added, "political parties are no longer able to claim that they are the only funnels to represent the public’s preference".

Disenchantment grows with politics-as-usual

Muhammad Yusuf, an 18-year-old Pemalang resident, told Khabar he wants a new president who remains close to the people. "I think we need a smart figure and humble, just like Governor Jokowi," Muhammad said.

Hilary Desuari, a 25 year-old Yogyakarta resident, told Khabar, "I find it difficult to trust the political elite." Jokowi, she said, may be a viable candidate "because he does real work and solves many problems."

Willy Bordus Tatag Hastungkoro, a 24 year-old Jakarta resident who originally hails from Central Java, said Indonesia needs a president who has a vision for the country, and not just for a political party.

"I think that we need a figure with a good mindset to protect and develop the public’s interests mandated by Pancasila, our guiding principles," he said.

Reader Comments
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    • hasbuhizbullah
      December 27, 2013 @ 07:12:33PM
    • The citizens of Indonesia have all become sick of leaders who only talk a lot but never deliver. We need a leader who does not talk a lot but one who is just, wise and puts the people first.
    • deska
      November 26, 2013 @ 02:11:15AM
    • Good.
    • djamal
      March 21, 2013 @ 10:03:47AM
    • To me Jokowi is not that special. He is just more diligent at visits and going around the city, nothing more.
    • alwan
      March 19, 2013 @ 01:03:58AM
    • jokowi is an angel
    • Rio febrian
      March 18, 2013 @ 11:03:41PM
    • There is no leader like Jokowi. Let us hope that he will be blessed with good health and longevity so that he will remain a leader for the country in the future. Amen.
    • Rio febrian
      March 18, 2013 @ 11:03:25PM
    • Jokowi, I fully love you!
    • phillipe
      March 18, 2013 @ 10:03:34PM
    • We are longing for a leader who is firmly wise and can protect his people.
    • tiur
      March 18, 2013 @ 06:03:57PM
    • Steady and simple. I hope he turns out to be a good leader.
    • indri
      March 18, 2013 @ 11:03:13AM
    • Jokowi is good leader .....
    • MUHAMMAD YUSUF
      March 18, 2013 @ 12:03:25AM
    • Support Jokowi for 2014 Presidential candidate.
    • achmad muttaqin
      March 17, 2013 @ 08:03:28AM
    • I would like to comment on the government policy, in this case about the Minister for Agriculture implementing RIPH. What is this policy based on? If you really want to improve the quality of life for local farmers then that is all well and good, but please guide those farmers so that they can increase harvest production to meet the needs of the Indonesian people. Do not allow agricultural imports to be restricted while the need for agricultural imports is suppressed. Can the minister for agriculture do his job or not? If he is truly a smart minister then he should do his job properly. Do not let the price of imported garlic, shallots, meat and fruit inflate and become unavailable in the market. The minister should know just how many Indonesians rely on those imported products. Hey, you, stupid minister! Do your job properly. You are paid with people's taxes. The people should not suffer for your idiotic decision. Thank you. Please review the RIPH.
    • deni
      March 15, 2013 @ 09:03:55PM
    • Keep up the fight, Jokowi, and raise the spirit of your country. Distance yourself from politics, corruption, unrest, etc. Make our country peaceful and calm. Embrace once again those who are poor. Make Indonesia into a country that is virtuous and clean, remember Pancasila. We will always support you on your path of righteousness.
    • zaen
      March 13, 2013 @ 03:03:54PM
    • Great! Jokowi, make Indonesia into a clean nation. I know you can.
    • merdeka
      March 13, 2013 @ 11:03:32AM
    • What is important is how we find people like Jokowi. There used to be many heroes, how come now there is only one. Remember that in this country leaders seem good at first but we find out later that they are not. Who is to blame.
    • izul
      March 13, 2013 @ 03:03:15AM
    • Crazy.
    • ria monita
      March 12, 2013 @ 08:03:07AM
    • okowi hopefully no corruption, and help people in need :)
    • taufik rachman
      March 9, 2013 @ 12:03:23AM
    • I think it would be amazing if "Jokowi & Dahlan Iskan" joined forces.
    • MASYANTO
      March 8, 2013 @ 04:03:06AM
    • Indonesia needs leaders who are good at work, not those good at talking.
    • YUSUF TAHER.
      March 7, 2013 @ 11:03:17AM
    • I think all candidates offer the same thing, all for the good of the country and its citizens. But we are always disappointed later on, none of them ever achieve anything real. Leaders are less strict and disciplined. There will never be peace in public life with all the unrest caused by the dereliction of their responsibilities to society and nation. Those who fought for our freedom would weep if they could see what we have done with independence their gift to us, and the future of our country. Would we not all love a leader who is peaceful, calm, clean, virtuous, progressive and successful? Leaders, love your people for the sake of your afterlife and hopefully you will be exalted at His side. My message to Jokowi, please think about our fate in this country. Allah knows our sacred prayers and rests them on the shoulders of our leaders. I wish you success in the truth Mr. Jokowi.
    • ahmad
      March 6, 2013 @ 11:03:01PM
    • I am very concerned with the natural disasters in Indonesia!
    • armstrong ceiling
      March 6, 2013 @ 02:03:49AM
    • good
    • Nuri AZimi
      March 5, 2013 @ 05:03:11AM
    • Jokowi was present in Medan at Merdeka field on 03-03-2013
    • GIYANTO
      March 4, 2013 @ 03:03:42AM
    • For now, JOKOWI is the only reliable Indonesian Presidential candidate. Firm, willing to work hard, close to the people (populist, does not care for image like other officials, responsible for the Regional Revenue and Expenditure Budget: how could he not? Jokowi is the only one who calculates the cost and benefits of a project, up to the BEP. Others only care for getting their pockets full of money, the execution of projects, but do not care for the Budget), polite (willing to talk to anyone and is not easily provoked when attacked from people who dislike him), discipline (many officials panic when Jokowi conducts sudden inspections because they arrive late at the office). Therefore, even though Jokowi only lead Jakarta merely 2 years by 2014, I think it is better that Jokowi runs for presidency in 2014.
    • resnal umpain
      March 2, 2013 @ 10:03:55PM
    • We, the people of east Indonesia (Papua), are very left behind. Therefore we need wise leaders. From central to local government.
    • hanik roeslan
      March 2, 2013 @ 10:03:30PM
    • its jokowi the best leadership in indonesian..keep your sytle for ur job
    • watda
      February 28, 2013 @ 08:02:22PM
    • Why are there always omissions in every article?
    • roni lubis
      February 28, 2013 @ 06:02:16AM
    • It is time for Indonesia to have a leader like Jokowi because he understands exactly where the problems we need to solve lie. He does not waste time and, as we know, many of these problems have been solved. Great, two thumbs up for Jokowi.
    • Mikael
      February 27, 2013 @ 11:02:57PM
    • Kita memerlukan pemimpin seperti dia (Jokowi).
    • hendrik
      February 27, 2013 @ 10:02:39PM
    • A good leader puts the needs of his people first, especially in rural villages.
    • HUSNI TAMRIN
      February 27, 2013 @ 08:02:50PM
    • Peace be upon you.
    • wasilah
      February 27, 2013 @ 05:02:30AM
    • I am happy with this.
    • dkusun 20
      February 27, 2013 @ 03:02:59AM
    • Jokowi is a candidate of the future leader of the nation. I like it.
    • khodijah azzahra
      February 26, 2013 @ 05:02:07AM
    • I want to ask for old and new Indonesian songs.
    • baguz
      February 24, 2013 @ 11:02:35PM
    • The people now need a hard working leader, not a leader who talks a lot but takes no action, staying behind a desk. The people also do not want a president who doubles as a party leader.
    • mihartono
      February 24, 2013 @ 02:02:34PM
    • Thank you for this useful information. But, new information should be published quickly as soon as possible. Thanks.
    • ICHAL
      February 22, 2013 @ 07:02:09AM
    • Hopefully, Indonesia will have a leader that the people, nation and country have been hoping for.
    • wiwikfajar
      February 22, 2013 @ 06:02:04AM
    • A leader needs to be wise in dealing with a nation's problems.
    • dhea
      February 22, 2013 @ 02:02:19AM
    • Jokowi is a man with the heart of an angel. Stay strong Jokowi!
    • bambang
      February 22, 2013 @ 12:02:05AM
    • It is time we have a leader who is principled, who understands all aspects of this country whether they be villages in remote areas or cities.
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