Winners and Losers in the 2014 Indonesian Legislative Polls

A banner of Jokowi for president in central Jakarta. Photo by Herianus, Copyright @Demotix (3/15/2014)

A banner of Jokowi for president in central Jakarta. Photo by Herianus, Copyright @Demotix (3/15/2014)

190 million voters, 12 parties, 560 Parliament seats.

Indonesians will vote twice this year: April 9 for the local and national legislative elections; and three months later on July 9 for the presidential election. A party needs 20 percent of legislative seats or 25 percent of the popular vote in order to nominate a presidential candidate. But according to quick counts, no party reached the minimum threshold which means there is a need for coalition–building.

Regardless, Endy M. Bayuni underscored the value of the recent elections:

Indonesia is now quite comfortable with the constant changing of the guard. These changes reflected the will of the people who exercised their sovereign rights through the periodic elections. The elected leaders are too learning that their positions and influence are not permanent, and that they have to account for their policies and actions.

Only two presidents have ruled Indonesia for 53 years after 1945. But after implementing democratic reforms in 1998, Indonesians were able to elect four presidents already.

However, Indonesian politics is still marred by various issues such as corruption and inefficient bureaucracy. This was noted by Zak Rose:

The political establishment in Indonesia has never seemed less popular. Stalled democratization initiatives and rampant corruption in the halls of political and military power have not gone unnoticed by the Indonesian public. Party loyalty has hit rock bottom, and an increasingly cynical electorate is eager to find alternatives to the status quo.

Searching for alternatives, many people pinned their hopes and support to Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, a rising politician who is admired for his pro-people style of governance. His popularity is often dubbed as the ‘Jokowi Effect’.

But the ‘Jokowi Effect’ proved to be limited if we are to interpret the recent election results. Wimar Witoelar tried to explain why Jokowi’s opposition party underperformed in the election:

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.

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.

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.

Winarno Zain analyzed why the business sector was not overly enthusiastic with the election outcome, and in particular with the ‘Jokowi Effect’:

First, given the distribution of votes among parties, it is clear that whatever coalition government is formed, it would be weak and not effective, as the debate on government policies and the decision-making process would drag on for a long time in the House of Representatives.

Second, during the campaign, the rhetoric of populist and nationalist policies were at high pitch, even harsh words against foreign-business interests were heard, shocking the business community, who are already wary of the back sliding of some government policies in trade and investment, as reflected in the recently approved investment and trade laws.

Jokowi, the frontrunner, has not even spelled out his thinking on economic issues. We only know that he was a manufacturer and exporter of furniture.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim majority nation in the world. Islamic Parties have been participating in the electoral process but their votes have been decreasing in recent years. But this year, their votes went up which surprised many analysts. However, Dr Greg Fealy clarified that it does not reflect a ‘resurgence of political Islam’:

This election result does not show a resurgence of political Islam but it does indicate its resilience and ability to adapt to changing attitudes in the electorate. The four Islamic parties that have gained parliamentary seats have done so partly because they have moved closer to the centre of the political spectrum, and away from a doctrinaire Islamic position.

Some media moguls also joined the elections but their parties did not dominate the polls. For Agus Sudibyo, it means voters have the capacity to critically discern what the media are reporting:

They take into account core ties like ethnicity and faith; quite apart from credibility and quality.

People are not merely blank canvases that can be painted upon by the media. They are competent in giving feedback; therefore one would need to reconsider the view that citizens are merely passive media consumers.

Another factor in the campaign is the involvement of young voters. Hasyim Widhiarto probed the impact of the youth vote:

The abundance of young people has also explained why Indonesia has earned the title as one of the most active nations on social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook in the past few years, inspiring political parties and politicians to field their election campaigns in cyberspace.

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo and his wife cast their votes in the legislative elections in Jakarta. Photo by Denny Pohan, Copyright @Demotix (4/9/2014)

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo and his wife cast their votes in the legislative elections in Jakarta. Photo by Denny Pohan, Copyright @Demotix (4/9/2014)

Indonesia’s major political parties are now busy forming alliances in preparation for the July presidential election. The most popular candidate is still Jokowi. Christian von Lübke explains why Jokowi is popular among the masses:

The idea of a non-establishment contender from the midst of society – who is not a scion of a political dynasty, nor a business tycoon, nor a ranking army general, and who actually listens to people’s concerns – has stirred much enthusiasm.

But some people are also wary of the people behind Jokowi:

In the eyes of sceptical observers, the former mayor of Solo already finds himself entangled in web of entrenched interests, power brokers, and campaign financiers.

Donny Syofyan warned about misusing the power of the ‘Jokowi Effect’:

The ‘Jokowi effect’, that is the overwhelming influence of Jokowi due to his current popularity, is subject to misuse.

Jokowi should not be exploited as a media darling. Jokowi often benefits from his personal magnetism but this should not lead to media immunity for him and his proponents.

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