Indonesia: Lights, Camera, Elections!

News of showbiz personalities running in the elections is no longer surprising. But if more than 30 entertainers were registered by a major political party as candidates in the elections; and if all parties, big or small, have asked actors/actresses to become politicians, then indeed this is somewhat an interesting, if not shocking news.

Next April, Indonesian voters will elect new members of Parliament. Political parties are now quietly launching their election campaigns. What surprised (or disturbed) many Indonesians is the high number of celebrities who were named as parliamentary candidates.

For example, the National Mandate Party or PAN registered 22 singers, actors and actresses as their candidates. There is a running joke that the new name of PAN is now the “National Artists Party.”

Pemiloopy identifies the issue:

“The one election issue in the news at the moment is the trend for celebrities to stand for election. The idea is that soap opera stars will bring voters flocking to parties because of name recognition and their ‘attractive appearance’ as one TV station put it.”

Max Lane believes the unpopularity of traditional politicians forced the parties to seek the help of popular individuals:

“Another manifestation of the cynicism towards all the parties is that the parties themselves, having picked up on how much they are disliked, have increasingly put forward candidates not associated with them historically. Thus they nominate showbiz celebrities, religious figures, academics and other non-party community personalities.”

The RAB Experience discusses “celebrity politics” in Indonesia:

“The Indonesian parliament has a good cross-section of the Indonesian entertainment industry populating its halls of power. As Indonesia enters into an election cycle the political horse trading that goes on to get candidates into the fold will start in earnest. In a country with a population of more than 220 million and myriad gossip shows the reality is that celebrities are often much more recognizable than politicians.”

Diaz Hendropriyono highlights the notable difference of showbiz candidates in Indonesia compared to other countries:

“Although there are celebrities running for political offices in other countries such as what is found in Indonesia, there is still one notable difference: The majority of Indonesian celebrities seem reluctant to run for local executive head and are more comfortable to be number two.

“The small number of celebrities who run for regional head may create negative impressions. The public may judge that these actors do not have the confidence to manage a government, thus they need to be coupled with someone who has experience in public administration and policy. Doubtless, this will eventually hurt the artists’ reputations.”

Some analysts are confident Indonesians will vote wisely:

“To avoid further electoral deterioration, many parties are seeking a shortcut. Perhaps inspired by the general perception that the majority of voters are simple people, to whom political issues do not really matter, celebrities — simply because of their popularity — are invited to save the party’s popularity by serving as vote-collecting spearheads.

“Theoretically, this line of logic might work. In practice, however, the public is not dumb enough to choose a comedian over an economist, a model over an NGO activist, or a soap-opera star over a political analyst.”

What are the reactions of ordinary Indonesians and bloggers?

Voice of Indonesia admires actress Marissa Haque who has been active in politics since 2004:

“I love her act. She's so natural, relaxed and flexible in front of the camera. I don't know much about Marissa. I only know she's a good and dedicated actress. No matter who you are, what your background, if you can deliver our voice clearly, you deserve to be there…be a parliament member.”

Inem Sukoco describes Indonesian politics as a “political opera”.

“In the last few days the media reported about the political opera, where some actors turned their ‘way of life’ as politicians. I’d rather call it as “political opera”. Since political opera and play opera are almost the same, it’s only about playing the character. Play it as great as possible, so that the audience will give a big applause.”

“They have their huge fans. Is there any other reasonable reasons? Not at all. They even have no political knowledge. All they know is just ‘how to entertain, not how to lead’. You can see it everytime they were interviewed. They acted like a fool. Can you imagine? What we can expect from incapable leaders. Nothing but popularity.”

“Though in fact, there's no much difference between play and politics. As seen on TV, or other media, how many politicians act in huge political opera, misuse of power, make a fool of people, cheating, corrupting here, there and everywhere. Playing the people's emotion. What about acting on play? Almost the same. They only need to act in nice way, so that they can play the audience's emotion.”

Former Miss Indonesia winner Angelina Sondakh is now a politician. She is also at the same time a blogger. Soap opera actor and model Adrian Maulana has a Facebook account. He will run in the elections next year.

Actress and candidate Wulan Guritno is now blogging. Her blog attracted various comments from many individuals. Some wants her to forget politics and “keep her day job” as an actress:

“I admire your honesty, your heart is in the right place. But why do you expose yourself to so much vulnerability over the internet? Honestly I love you as an actress, but you write like a high school kid, at best. I'm speaking not to deliberately hurt you, but call it as it is. How could you expect people to take you seriously when you don't know how to articulate yourself with words… bad grammar, run on sentences… etc. After all, you are considering politics. You need to learn to develop a thick skin among other things. Like I said I admire your honesty, but yeah, I agree with a previous comment…Keep your day job.”

She was called a “childish adult”.

“Reading your posting, it's obvious for me that you are such a kind of childish adult. Your way of thinking, sorry if this hurts you, but it's too plain. Being people representative needs a very well and long thinking.

“I don't know anything about politics and I don't have any right to judge you just from your way to write, but I do hope that your honesty that lead you to become a people representative will be useful when you've become a people representative later.”

Others support her pledge to improve the political situation in Indonesia:

“If you believe that you have those three: power, chance and clue. Then go for it. This country is already a mess, we've got nothing more to lose. I myself don't have power/chance/clue how to make political situation better, so I'll just sit here and wait for a miracle to come….just like most people.

“Oh just one last thing; you might be sincere now, but be aware that the politics can turn you just as ugly in no time. Soon you'll be nothing more than a politician with no people.”

Konnichiwa beaches challenges Guritno:

“Your premise that everything in life is about 50/50 chances is at best what I call bullshit and at worst just downright wrong.

“Becoming a representative of a large group of people (people who apparently you're not even familiar with) requires 100% commitment. Being a legislative rep is not gambling. It’s not about your comfort zone. And it’s definitely not about you, Wulan.

“Can you state your visions and mission in clear and well written, well spoken Indonesian?

“What sets you apart from the other celebrities running for a seat?”


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