Battle of Jakarta
Muhamad Haripin and Irine H. Gayatri
Haripin is political scientist at Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Jakarta, and PhD candidate at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto. Irine is senior researcher and editor-in-chief of Centre for Political Studies – LIPI’s official website
Anxiety and fear of social disintegration is looming out of Jakarta gubernatorial election. Source of concern is the exploitation of identity politics and recurring mass mobilization occurred several times from November last year to March 2017. Commitment of security apparatus to stay away from electoral politics has been also put into question.
The election has indeed demonstrated an intriguing political scene. Fierce competition between Anies Baswedan and Basuki Thahaja Purnama (Ahok), two remaining candidates, has profound impact on the way communities associate their political preference with ethnicity or religion. More worrying, hoaxes and fake news have also been massively distributed online to manipulate public opinion. The result is contentious politics that has not only threatened the well being of political rationality but also the fabric of nation-state.
Heading to second round of Jakarta election in 19 April, it’s about time to figure out what the Jakarta election tells us about Indonesian democracy?
So far both candidates have equally demonstrated uninspiring and discouraging political moves.
Anies, former education minister, has warmly welcomed support from notorious vigilante group of Islamic Defender Front (FPI) and ethnic-based groups. Recently he was also without hesitant aligning with Cendana network, refers to complex residence of (late) former President Suharto and his family. In early March 2016, Anies attended the 51th year commemoration of Order of March Eleventh (Supersemar), document issued by the first President Sukarno to Suharto to restore public order but the latter misused it to take over executive power. Some infamous conservative Islamic preachers also attended the commemoration event, including Rizieq Shihab, Abdullah Gymnastiar, Arifin Ilham, and Syech Assegaf. Shihab took opportunity to give a speech that, expectedly, glorified Suharto and (falsely) alarmed the audience about the rise of communism in Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Basuki, the incumbent governor, has been at ease with the military (TNI) and police (Polri). He allocated regional budget for military and police to conduct security operation in Jakarta, including support the local government security personnel (Satpol PP) in executing eviction policies. Jakarta government also provided new housing complex for military personnel and their family. These series of cooperation have even provoked some of prominent opposition figures to accuse that Basuki and Jakarta provincial administration has bought security apparatus.
On recent development, Jakarta police submitted a request to adjourn the blasphemy trial of Basuki due to public security consideration. The timing is considered not ideal to conduct the trial. Indeed, not all happy with this request as it suggested an indirect police intervention upon the independence of judiciary institution. Police has been accused of protecting Basuki from negative campaign. Either TNI or Polri denied all allegations.
These developments have highlighted at least two persistent problems in the core of Indonesian democratic realm.
First, the emerging conservative movement has hijacked democratic process to impose much rigor and uncompromised Islamic teaching into Indonesian pluralist society. They have also succeeded simplify conservative narrative into attainable political struggle. Aspiration to implement full-fledged religion-based law was also heard along with derogatory chanting against minority groups. Basuki’s campaign team precisely highlighted this problem in their recently launched video campaign. The story of marginalization and violence committed by the conservative groups against the minorities in Indonesia is hardly new. Yet, Gymnastiar was constantly playing the victim card; he tweeted that Basuki has slandered the Muslim majority in the country.
Second, in post-1998 many military privileges enjoyed throughout authoritarian period were stripped down, and military intervention in political affairs has been considered as violation of law. However, despite such legal prohibition, cases of indirect influence in local politics have been common since decentralization commenced in 1999 and regional election firstly held in 2005. Up until now, the military’s territorial command is still largely intact -and even expanding. And, in spite of the persistent trend of diminishing veto capability of TNI, the military continues to closely watch national and local political development. Moreover, this time Polri has also tried to play dangerous game of politics. The police should more focus on their main jobs, which is to prepare the forces needed to uphold rule of law and to maintain public order everywhere, instead of ask the court to adjourn Basuki’s trial.
Characterized by deception blasphemy aimed at Basuki, various patterns of racist-slur campaigns rampant in public spaces. The call tone full of threats and insults has been broadcasted on TV and scattered on the banners in streets as well. Those messages have eventually penetrated into nearly all aspects of Jakarta lives. The election monitoring body (Bawaslu) was unfortunately late as well as hesitant to take stern action against these violations. The failure to resolve this series of hate speech would have lasting impact the society –note merely affecting Basuki’s chance in election.
Worse is happening recently, ahead of the voting day where it is said both sides take advantage of basic food distribution as a form of social capital for the constituency. This time the monitoring body is at last willing to take reports from community on accusations of money politics. Indeed, money politics are prohibited under Election Law.
One remaining problem is the mass-mobilization politics that has demonstrated a disturbing tendency of intimidation upon the voters. It takes form in so-called “Al-Maidah rally,” refers to one surah on Koran that allegedly misconstrued by Basuki, and will involve masses from outside Jakarta. They will be placed in voting booths all over Jakarta, coordinated by supporter of Anies. If not handled properly, this combination of masses and identity-based politics might show us a greater over-polarization within the society. And, will the security personnel, said to be 2,400 military officers, deployed to safeguard the election be able to prevent the potential disturbance?
Taking all into account, the 2017 Jakarta election has shown upsetting trends of, first, the proliferation of narrow-minded and sectarian politics that continuously hindered meaningful effort to alter a toxic hate speech into open public debate on development policy, and second, the intimate yet subtle relationship between security apparatus and ruling power that potentially jeopardize democratic consolidation. Third, money politics and mass-mobilizing strategy undertaken by the elites that might not only further divide the society but also discredit the electoral process itself. Moderate Islamic organization and human rights based NGOs have worked together to counter these threats to democracy, but surely many things still have to be done.
Having said that, we could expect the unstable nature of democratization in Indonesia will be manifested further in the upcoming 2018 local elections in West Java and East Java, the first and third most populated regions in Indonesia, as well as 2019 presidential election. Let's see what will occur after the voting day of 19 April.
May Jakarta become the showcase for Indonesia’s resilient democracy and pluralist polity. (Muhamad Haripin and Irine H. Gayatri)