Challenges in the 2014 Elections
    Category: Column By : Jusuf Wanandi Read : 1689 Date : Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - 05:57:31

    The general elections of 2014 promise to become a political watershed for Indonesia's democracy, as it is set to usher in a new generation of national leadership as epitomized by the next president. One year ago it was almost impossible to think of new faces taking part in elections, which have become very expensive: a few hundred million dollars for the presidency. Besides, he or she can only become a presidential candidate if nominated by one or several political parties with at least 25% popular votes or 20% of the seats in the new parliament.

    Since the election of Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as the governor of Jakarta in 2012, a new phenomenon has emerged. Despite limited funds and support from only the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) and the Great Indonesia Party (Gerindra), Jokowi won the election against an incumbent with a large coffer and huge political support. If that wasn't enough, he also had the entire municipality machinery working for him. There was a strong desire by most Jakartans for change, for a new face representing a new generation, and against the incumbency. Jokowi's victory was also driven by a large group of young activists and volunteers who galvanized voters. 

    This yearning for change as shown in the Jakarta governor's election resurfaced in terms for the whole of Indonesia as seen in a polling done by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and confirmed by four other credible polling institutions. It was also obvious in the CSIS polling that while older leaders and former presidents or vice presidents enjoyed very high popularity and recognition of over 90%, their electability rate in second acts is very low, at around 4.5%. The CSIS polling was done in April while the other polls were done in May or June, one year before the presidential election in July 2014, with the same results. Of course, one year in politics is a long time.

    The mood for change and for a new leader can be expected to be even stronger. This explains why Prabowo Subianto as a leader was the favorite in a CSIS survey in November 2012. In the later survey, however, Prabowo was regarded as someone from the Suharto era saddled with past allegations of human rights abuses though he has never gone to court.  

    To become a presidential candidate, however, Jokowi needs to overcome several hurdles. First, he needs the consent and support of Megawati Sukarnoputri, the PDIP chairperson, which might not automatically come. Second, who should be his vice presidential candidate? Jokowi is more of a solidarity builder than an implementer. He would need someone like Jusuf Kalla, who as vice president during Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's first term, implemented the policies of the president.

    He would also need a coalition with other parties to create a parliamentary majority in order to run the government. But the most important trend in Indonesian democracy is that money politics alone is no longer a prerequisite for success in presidential elections. This makes a generational change in national leadership possible in 2014.

    Jokowi's political acumen is sharp, and he has tested his national popularity by campaigning in regional elections for PDIP candidates in North Sumatra, Central Java, West Java and Bali. However, he should not overdo things since he is the governor of Jakarta, which gives him a good platform to prove his ability to overcome the city's problems. His popularity ratings showed that he is strongly supported by Indonesians of all levels. Obviously, Jokowi would need good advisors to secure his candidacy.  These developments will create an interesting political atmosphere in the coming year.