THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #10: Jakarta changes leadership

The quick count results of the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial elections show that Anies-Sandi has secured the majority vote. As shown below, Anies-Sandi is in the lead with 58%, leaving Ahok-Djarot behind with 42%. As history may show, quick count results tend to not be that far off the mark. So, Jakartans will have to welcome Anies-Sandi as their new governor for the next period.


download (1).png
As seen on Jakarta Post website


Throughout the charged campaign, I witnessed the many debates hosted to showcase each candidate’s competence. Ahok’s main theme was a continuation of his existing programs, which have been proven to work; whereas Anies would go on with platitudes and promises. The common opinion — at least, that of the more liberal and cosmopolitan — has generally accepted that Ahok stood a better chance in the race. I would argue that confidence was misplaced. Ahok’s campaign makes more sense to the educated, fairly liberal Jakartan; but with your normal Budi or Wati on the streets trying to scrape a living in metropolitan Jakarta, Anies’s campaign spoke more to them.

This is not to say that Ahok’s reforms to the city have not improved the lives of Jakartans. Anecdotal evidence and hearsay indicates regular Jakartans are overall satisfied with the massive clean-up (both literally and figuratively) that Ahok initiated when he took office. However, when it comes to elections, the important thing to remember is how to frame and structure those successes into a coherent and easily-digested narrative. I would argue that Ahok failed to do so, and Anies did a better job at it.

Anies’s rhetoric and his promises were more attractive to your everyday middle-lower class Jakartan. Anies simply spins a better yarn than Ahok. While Ahok talked in numbers and statistics to indicate the successes of his programs, Anies told a better story that appealed to the voters’ emotions. In terms of substance, a large chunk of Anies’s programs were mostly “improvements” over Ahok’s existing programs — there was nothing new that he offered. Anies stood with the layman, promising them that he would not bulldoze their homes (although they are technically illegal in the first place) and cheap housing; Ahok insisted on bulldozing illegal houses and relocating people to cheap apartments. If there is one thing that appeals to the common man (or woman), it is the idea of owning a house. Anies offered a zero-percent down payment option, a juicy option that only sounds good to people who have little to no understanding of how economics and policy works. Perhaps the most controversial issue where Anies certainly gained the hearts of the voters was the issue of reclamation. Ahok insisted on proceeding with the reclamation albeit protests from fishermen. On social media, especially in anti-Ahok groups, we have seen Ahok’s insistence on the reclamation as a sure sign that he is pro-capital, pro-business, and anti-wong cilik. Anies, on the other hand, decides to side with the wong cilik and fight against the reclamation. A rather hypocritical stance, considering his running mate being one of the richest entrepreneurs in Indonesia.

When one looks back at the flow of the debates (and reminisce snickering at the roasts and zingers and memes thrown about), one cannot help but think that Ahok could have done a better job framing his narrative.

Aside from campaign substance, there were also external factors that helped shape the election.

Perhaps the major reason why Ahok lost was simply because of his religion and race. The blasphemy charges against Ahok did not help him and was constantly used by the opposition to leverage their position. The consistent anti-Ahok campaigns led by Islamist hardliners have shown them to be a force to be reckoned with. From the numerous Aksi Bela Islam to the final Tamasya Al-Maidah, the conservative Islamic factions have been hard at work rallying the masses to vote against Ahok, mostly capitalising the fact that Ahok is a double-minority.

Another reason could probably be the lack of tangible support from the political parties and patrons. Anies’s patron, Prabowo Subianto, made appearances during the campaign. Related, Anies also co-opted Habib Rizieq, effectively securing the Islamist vote. On the other hand, Ahok and Djarot were mostly on their own as important patrons from PDI-P and Golkar failed to make notable appearances.

Finally, while I am loath to mention this, Ahok’s persona and track record of leading Jakarta could have worked against him. Though it is undeniable that he had made remarkable progress in cleaning up Jakarta, his aggressive and often hostile demeanor and way of doing things likely fostered more antipathy towards him. He may have made more enemies than he could fend off and in a culture where brazenness is often ill-accepted, these just worked against him.

What of Jakarta’s future? While I would love to imagine Jakarta receding into a mush of flooding and incompetence, I would withhold such judgments until Anies and Sandi start getting to work. If there is one positive thing that we can get from this election, it is that Anies and Sandi now have to live up to Ahok’s legacy. Ahok left behind many notable reforms that made Jakarta a more bearable place to live. He also left behind a series of unfinished projects. Anies and Sandi would have to work hard to prove that they are indeed better than Ahok in running the place. If they don’t manage to hold a candle to Ahok’s programs or even worse, backtrack development for the sake of enriching themselves or their patrons, Jakartans would be foolish to not realize that they have made a very bad decision.

But as of now, congratulations, Anies and Sandi for winning the election (at least if the quick count results hold). Jakarta is now in your hands. As a potential resident in the foreseeable future, I wish you two do not screw the city up even more. Otherwise, I would not be surprised if sales of Ahok waving and saying “Penak jamanku toh?” skyrocket.


Comments are closed.

Website Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: