The Appointment of Hendropriyono as an Adviser in Jokowi’s Transition Team

Suciwati Munir, the wife of the late Indonesian activist Munir Said Thalib has criticised Jokowi's appointment of Hendropriyono to his transition team. Image
Suciwati Munir, the wife of the late Indonesian activist Munir Said Thalib has criticised the appointment of Hendropriyono to Jokowi’s transition team and questioned Jokowi’s commitment to human rights issues in Indonesia. Image

It was with such great elation that many journalists and other commentators announced the victory of Jokowi, the first truly post-Suharto figure elected to office in Indonesia. There was a lot at stake in the eyes observers in terms of the tone the next leader would set for the country for the next 5 years.

In the lead up to the election even The Jakarta “there-is-no-such-thing-as-being-neutral-when the stakes are so high” Post, openly declared their endorsement of Jokowi. Whilst other English-speaking media didn’t openly endorse the candidate, they did vigorously express their concerns about Prabowo, and for good reasons considering Prabowo’s alleged involvement in several controversial events in Indonesia.

Others like Tim Hanigan described the situation more sagely, in ways only long-time observers of Indonesia could, stating in an article during the campaign period that perhaps whoever was elected wouldn’t matter in the end, that “neither worst fears nor greatest hopes [would] ever seem really to come to pass”. That instead, varying constellations of the current powerful players would emerge in different alliances in years to come, including Praowo, Rais, Jokowi, Megawati, and Bakrie along with the other usual players in Indonesian politics. Several Indonesian political observers also made similar observations.

Many high profile Indonesian activists and artists stayed decidedly neutral, or even silent, throughout the period, and were questioned for it. But they put their silence down to letting their followers make their own, responsible electoral choices.

Those who spoke out in support of Jokowi were celebrated by expat coverage. It seemed to be a narrative of Jokowi as messiah for foreigners and the foreign press, the goodie versus baddie narrative Western media is such a fan of.

I too am probably guilty of that.

Now, however, there is a confounding silence coming from direction of the English-speaking world’s media commentators as to human rights implications for the appointment of Hendropriyono as an adviser three days ago to the transition team that will prepare Jokowi’s power-transfer from outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. (And I say the English speaking press, because in contrast it is a highly discussed matter in Indonesia right now).

Hendropriyono is suspected of being linked to the murder of human rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib in 2004. The former BIN chief, however, has denied the allegations and maintained that he had nothing to do with the case.

Jokowi has continued to play down the issue of appointing former intelligence chief Hendropriyono over the past few days.

“There are no problems. I can’t screen everybody that comes to me. Should I ask him if he was involved in this or in that, or in that abduction? It’s not like that. This is a legal issue and should be made clear. [Hendropriyono] should explain that,” Joko said on Sunday.

“I was appointed as an adviser,” Hendropriyono said of his appointment on Saturday. “I will prepare myself to give advice on intelligence.”

The wife of the late human rights activist (HAM) Munir, Mrs Suciwati, however criticised the appointment of Hendropriyono as an advisor to the Transition Team, claiming this is an indication that Jokowi will not, after all, “keep his promise that he would punish human rights violators”.

Harris Azhar, executive director of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that the appointment of Hendropriyono has raised concerns that human rights issues could take a backseat on the next government’s agenda.

The transition team was set up last week by Joko and is led by Rini M.S. Soewandi, a former minister of industry and trade, to help the incoming administration on budget matters and provide recommendations on cabinet appointments.

Hendropriyono’s involvement in the team prompted a warning from Haris Azhar, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, or Kontras, who pointed to the former intelligence chief’s role in a bloody military crackdown on civilians in Talangsari, Lampung, in 1989, as well as his alleged links to the murder of prominent rights activist Munir Said Thalib in 2004.

Hendropriyono was never charged over the death of Munir, who was poisoned on board a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam, but his deputy at the BIN at the time, Muchdi Purwopranjono, was indicted and later acquitted in the case.

Munir Said Thalib, affectionately known simply as Munir, was a high profile Indonesian human rights and anti-corruption activist. He was the founder of the Kontras human rights organisation and laureate of the 2000 Right Livlihood Award. Munir was assassinated in 2004 while travelling to Utrecht University to pursue a master’s degree in international law and human rights. His last position was executive director of IMPARSIAL, another Indonesian human rights NGO.

What a Jokowi Presidency Might Mean for Indonesia’s Future

My contribution to the August edition of The Kashmir Walla Magazine about what the Jokowi victory might mean for Indonesia’s future. You can find the original text here 

Jokowi gestures during a rally in Proklamasi Monument Park in Jakarta. Image
Jokowi during a rally in Proklamasi Monument Park in Jakarta. Image

Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo was declared Indonesia’s president elect on July 22, winning almost 71 million votes and 53 per cent of the count. He represents Indonesia’s first President from an ordinary background without elite political lineage and the first genuinely post-Suharo political figure. For many observers, a Jokowi-led government represents an Indonesia whose time has finally come.

Jokowi grew up near a slum area in the central Javanese city of Solo where he would later become mayor at the beginning of his meteoric political career. His rise from humble beginnings has been his greatest political achievement so far, showing that Indonesian democracy is ready to elect a leader “from the people” rather than someone “born to rule”. He is a leader who embodies the hopes of ordinary Indonesians.

While his constituents and many observers hold high hopes for the man, in reality it may be difficult for Jokowi to live up to expectations of him as a reformer able to lead Indonesia beyond the period of democratic stagnation that has marked the end of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s reign.

Leading the world’s third largest democracy will also be made particularly difficult owing to the reality that Jokowi only holds only a third of the seats in Indonesian parliament.

In a nation as complex as Indonesia with a political culture reflective of that complexity, steering the country towards greater prosperity is an expectation that successive post-Suharto leaders have failed to live up to.

Following the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998, Indonesia had three successive post-Suharto Presidents: B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahmad Wahid, and Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Throughout this period, Indonesia had been characterised as a nation at a critical turning point, and the world had high hopes that Indonesia would emerge as a dominant regional power. But in the turbulence of the transition to democracy, these presidencies are now characterised more by their failure to steer Indonesia to its’ expected ascendency, rather than their successes.

In the wake of successive leadership failures, rather than rising from the ashes of the Suharto regime Indonesia instead faced a multitude of new problems and had to turn to international donors for economic rescue.

From 2004 under the two-term presidency of incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), Indonesia was on the way to getting back on it’s feet.

The 2004 election gave a popular mandate to SBY and saw the country emerge as politically stable state in a consolidated democracy. At the end of Yudhoyono’s first term, he could claim a degree of economic success.

But Yudhoyono leaves office less popular than he was at the beginning of his second term, with many criticising democratic rollbacks across human rights, corruption, and electoral management. As Marcus Mietzner explains, the end of the SBY era has been marked by “democratic stagnation and, in some areas, partial regress”.

The Economists’ Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index also reflects this bleak picture of the nation, classifying Indonesia as a ‘flawed democracy’ in its 2006 and 2008 surveys, with the country’s score and overall ranking on a downward trend.

Mietzer points to conservative factions within Indonesia’s elite who tried hard to roll back democratic reforms during SBY’s term, “leading to a moderate but noteworthy decline in Indonesia’s democratic quality”.

It is against this backdrop that we have seen the ascendancy of the populist figures of Jokowi and his political opponent Prabowo.

Throughout their campaigns, these politicians have stood for everything Yudhoyono proved not to be: Staunchly nationalistic, decisive, practical, and invoking the hopes of little guy (orang kecil) in creating a brighter future for all Indonesians, rather than the elite few.

When Jokowi won indonesia’s presidential election with a margin of 6.3 percentage points, in his victory speech he again invoked the hopes of ordinary Indonesia, calling on his constituents to look to the future with optimism and enthusiasm:

“This presidential election has provoked fresh optimism in the Indonesian nation. An independent soul and sense of political responsibility blossoms in … It’s now our responsibility to prove to ourselves, to other nations and especially to our children and our grandchildren, that … politics is freedom.”

Jokowi’s party, the PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle) and their coalition’s manifesto also evokes a call for optimism and change, a politics based on the principles gotong-royong (an Indonesian expression about working together to solve problems), and a socially and economically progressive platform. But the party’s first challenges will definitely prove unpopular.

Jokowi’s first major reform will be to cutting into the country’s fuel subsidies, which currently distort the economy and consume around a fifth of the annual budget. An important and necessary reform, however when there was a small increase in the cost of fuel last year Jakarta was shut down for a day by the protests that ensued.

The leader is also expected to make further difficult reforms which are needed restore Indonesia’s growth and set the country on the path to greater and more evenly spread prosperity. But as Gareth Leather, Asia economist at research firm Capital Economics pointed out to Time, “it is clearly too early to tell whether Jokowi will be the man to get Indonesia’s economy back on track. There is no magic bullet to reviving growth.”

As there is no magic bullet to reviving growth, there is also no guarantee that Indonesia’s representatives will be inspired to unity and support Jokowi’s progressive mandate, and Jokowi’s coalition of parties presently only holds around a third of the seats in the Indonesian parliament.

His rival Prabowo’s coalition has around two thirds of the seats.

Considering the incumbent Yudhoyono held a 70% majority parliament, he still found it extremely challenging to pass legislation. His inability to enact reform paralysed his last term.

Having seen what factionalism and internal politics can do to leadership groups in the country even when conditions in the DPR (House of Representatives) are in the government’s favour, those hopeful for a “new Indonesia” under a Jokowi presidency must remain mindful that elements within the regime may not necessarily work together cohesively in Jokowi’s favour. Even on a good day, government factions even within parties can and will undermine each other, compete for leadership internally, and engage in plots and counter-plots which disrupt every day decision making.

Jokowi proved his ability to solve major problems presented to his office during his time as mayor of both Solo and Jakarta. From his resoluteness in addressing the cities’ long neglected flood problems, to his firm approach to transforming the region’s massive bureaucratic inefficiencies.

However the idea that he will prove to be a reformer who will ruffle feathers, deal with Indonesia’s massive graft problems, and do on a larger national scale what he did so effectively in Solo and later he starting doing in Jakarta, is likely unrealistic.  After all, back in 2004 SBY was elected in an atmosphere of similar optimism with expectations that he would be the reformist leader the country needed. Within five years Indonesia has instead been left thoroughly disappointed in by his leadership.

There probably won’t be a great deal of meaningful progress under a Jokowi Government in Indonesia. But for now, that doesn’t matter much. There is still an atmosphere of hope in Indonesia, and a feeling that with the election of Jokowi, Indonesia has been accorded an administration more consonant with its present.


‘Indonesia’s democratic masses brought victory to Jokowi’ – The Conversation

Article by Professor Ariel Heryanto for The Conversation about the power of civic volunteerism throughout the Jokowi-JK Presdiential campaign. As the author points out, something overlooked by most foreign commentators during this period:

“Most international commentators have overlooked or underestimated the critical force behind Indonesia’s historic moment. They focused narrowly on Jokowi and his official team or on Prabowo. Elite-centric analyses represent the easiest type of investigation for outsiders with no or limited language mastery and living experience in the country”.


President elect Joko Widodo’s success is hugely a result of the spontaneous popular support from largely non-organised groups of ordinary Indonesians. AAP/NEWZULU/Zoe Reynolds

The 2014 Indonesian presidential election has been remarkable. Not only in comparison to the country’s long history of dictatorship that crumbled less than two decades ago, but also to democratic processes worldwide.

Voting is not compulsory in Indonesia. Yet volunteer groups took leading roles in making the election a spectacular success. Elsewhere coercion remains a feature in more than a few of the so-called “liberal” democratic countries, where elections at home are mandatory by law or held in other countries at gunpoint.

Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s president elect, is a paradox. Better known as Jokowi, he stands out as extraordinary among politicians in Indonesia and beyond, for being so ordinary (and comfortably so) in appearance, speech and background. Much has been written about him and his qualities. So let me move on to focus on others that made him president of the “world’s third-largest democracy”.

Victory of ordinary citizens

Jokowi’s success is hugely a result of the spontaneous popular support from largely non-organised groups of ordinary Indonesians. They converged in various forms, with a high degree of fluidity. Famous artists and public intellectuals form parts of it, but the majority are everyday commoners.

A man carries a boy to a Jokowi rally. Everyday commoners are behind Jokowi’s success.AAP/NEWZULU/Zoe Reynolds

I am reluctant to call this movement “people’s power”. This term is narrowly associated with street mobilisation, masculine force and martyrs of violence, following the EDSA revolutions in Manila decades ago, and more recently the pro-royalist rallies in Bangkok.

Like Jokowi, his supporters are inclined to soft power, such as puns, visual arts and music. Women are reportedly overrepresented. Mostly apolitical in their daily lives, they belong to none of the contesting political parties. Their work overshadowed the political machinery in ensuring Jokowi’s victory.

Jokowi supporters take selfies at a rally. In countering smear campaigns against Jokowi, they use humour of notable originality. AAP Image/NEWZULU/Zoe Reynolds

International observers’ shortcomings

Most international commentators have overlooked or underestimated the critical force behind Indonesia’s historic moment. They focused narrowly on Jokowi and his official team or on Prabowo. Elite-centric analyses represent the easiest type of investigation for outsiders with no or limited language mastery and living experience in the country.

Rarely attempted, but more compelling than ever before, is a serious look at the millions of largely nameless and unorganised people who brought Jokowi to the presidency.

As a candidate, Jokowi had limited resources and interest to mobilise the masses to support him. From early on his supporters impatiently pressed him to run for president. In contrast to the flow of the familiar “money politics”, individual citizens proudly published bank slips on social media, showing off their tiny share of donations to Jokowi’s election campaign.

Jakarta’s pro-Jokowi July 5 concert attracted over 100,000 people. Unpaid volunteers with no political party affiliation designed and ran the event.

Likewise, a leading spearhead in monitoring and legitimising the vote counting outside the state apparatus was Kawal Pemilu. It is a free online service that belongs to a small group of young individual volunteers who were strangers before voting day.

Causes and consequences

Two questions follow. What brought the emergence of these forceful masses? What benefits might these masses enjoy once Jokowi has become their president?

One answer to the first question is already suggested above: Jokowi personifies, and thus attracts, millions of his compatriots who have commonly endured decades of political abuse by the political elite. A second factor strengthened it, namely the widespread apprehension of a possible return of New Order authoritarianism if Prabowo won the election. But both factors only explain the interest, not the capacity of the masses to assert their will.

To understand their capacity, some credit is due to the service of social media, as attested to by Kawal Pemilu and the protest of Indonesian migrant workers on voting day in Hong Kong. More important is the serious and protracted intra-elite rivalry that has preoccupied members of the old regime. They will not go away with the ascendancy of Jokowi.

Until the surviving elite of the old regime resolves its internal conflict, the general population enjoys an extra space to assert their aspirations. Thus, a rather sombre answer to the second question above.

Unless adequately nurtured and consolidated institutionally in a timely way, the energy and support of Jokowi’s supporters will soon dissipate after his presidential inauguration. Opportunities exist, but there is no guarantee that Indonesia’s democratic moments will last long or flourish.

On paper, analysts often speak of democracy as categories that distinguish countries as democratic or non-democratic. In the real and messy world, democracy is best understood as moments or momentary qualities; some being more spectacular in some place than elsewhere, but only for some time.

Jokowi Confirmed as Next President of Indonesia

I wrote this piece on 21 July 2014 for The Kashmir Walla’s Magazine’s coverage of Indonesia’s Election

Jokowi, pictured when he was the mayor of Solo (yes, wearing a Napalm shirt. He's a metal fan)
Pak Jokowi, pictured when he was the mayor of Solo (yes, wearing a Napalm shirt. He’s a metal fan)

Joko Widodo has been declared the winner of Indonesia’s presidential election and will take office in October.

Indonesia’s Election Commission (the KPU) has declared that Mr Widodo won the poll with almost 71 million votes, which is over 53 per cent of the count.

Prabowo Subianto, former military general and leader of Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya (The Greater Indonesia Party) received 62.5 million votes or 46.8 per cent.

Yesterday afternoon, Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Hatta rejected the 2014 presidential election, which they claimed was “legally flawed”.

Some supporters claimed this meant Prabowo was no longer an actual candidate. But the KPU declaration indicates his status remained unchanged.

Despite Prabowo’s allegations, independent analysts have said that the poll has been by and large, free and fair.

A self-made man from humble beginnings, Jokowi represents change for Indonesia.

The much-respected former mayor of Solo and Jakarta won the election through positive campaigning, and by promoting active civic participation in the campaigning process, showing that political volunteerism in Indonesia has emerged as a powerful political force in the 2014 Presidential Election.

For a country who has always had leaders with close ties to the country’s elite, Jokowi represents a new style of leadership for Indonesia.

As one young Indonesian activist and author Fahd Djibran told me yesterday, for Indonesia, “Jokowi is a symbol of hope, and a leader who can embody the figure of [our] hopes into reality”.

Prabowo Withdraws From Indonesia’s Election Process

My piece on extraordinary developments in today’s Presidential Election count in Indonesia, for The Kashmir Walla Magazine 

Prabowo at a recent election rally, image
Prabowo at a recent election rally, image

Indonesia’s General Election Commission (KPU) held its’ final meeting today to finalise votes in the Presidential Election counted at the level of districts and provinces, with the final official count as of 5pm today showing Prabowo-Hatta with 43.83% and Jokowi-JK with 53.17%. However, Prabowo Subianto, leader of Indonesia’s Gerindra Party, withdrew from the Indonesian presidential election just hours before the KPU’s official count announcement, attacking the institution and accusing the KPU of not properly investigating alleged cheating at the polls.

The former military general made the announcement during a press conference in Jakarta this afternoon, stating the party will use their “constitutional rights, namely the 2014 presidential election rejected the implementation”. Suhardi, Chairman of Prabowo’s Gerindra Party added sternly “we reject the flawed implementation of the election law and withdraw from the process. We are not willing to sacrifice the mandate of the people who have been tricked and diverted,”

In a message posted on his Facebook at 3:20pm Jakarta time, Prabowo repeated that he had been “robbed”, citing districts in Papua and East Java, as well as the more-than-5,000 problematic polling stations in Jakarta.

The Jakarta Globe has reported that Prabowo’s decision may put the election in a legal grey area, with Irman  Putra  Sidin, constitutional law expert from Hassanudin University stating that “there had never been a candidate who rejected the whole process of the presidential election and withdrew himself from the election”.

Prabowo has three days to challenge the result once it is announced by the KPU, something he has promised to do if his’ legal team has the evidence, however several analysts said Prabowo would find it difficult to provide the evidence necessary to justify delaying the election results.

This has been the closest Indonesian Presidential election since the fall of the Suharto regime. For the Indonesians who voted for Jokowi-JK, the leadership represents a symbol of hope and change. For those voting for Prabowo, their voted represented a desire to maintain the status quo in Indonesia.

I spoke to several young voters today who had all been active in various aspects of the campaign period, and who were still holding their breath waiting on the count.

Fahd Djibran represents the voice of the Indonesian diaspora. An author of several books, Fahd is currently studying International Relations at Monash University in Melbourne. For Fahd, this has been the best election after the reform period and “shows that Indonesian democracy has continued to grow and mature the better”.

Regarding the distinctly different candidates and their constituents, this represents the development of Indonesia’s hopes. “If Jokowi win the election with approximately 52% (as predicted by exit-poll counting), I think that’s give us clear picture about the maturity of Indonesian democracy. This shows us there is a clear separation between people who want ‘change’ and those who enjoy the status quo”.

For Cuwie Muchtare, a copywriter and mother of a young daughter, also based in Jakarta, Jokowi represents a leader who has “finally allowed the the voice of Indonesia to be heard. No matter what religion, tradition, or ethnicity you come from, Indonesian is one. Historically, we have been a pluralistic multi-religious country, and for me, Jokowi represents my hopes for a unified Indonesia which respects and celebrates difference”.

Dida Darul Ulum of The Megawati Institute added that Jokowi holds a democratic vision for the country, “in stark contrast to Prabowo who has indicated otherwise, showing us that he does not respect the democratic process. We can see this in particular with the counting process of the KPU as we speak” he said frustratedly as we waited on results earlier today.

The military, special forces, and police remain on stand by across the country and outside the KPU headquarters in Jakarta as the country anxiously awaits the outcome these recent developments.

Uncertainty in Indonesia

“We believe that, no matter what happens and no matter who wins, we could never slip back into something resembling the Suharto era. It could never happen. There are too many people watching, we are all watching. And we all know that Indonesia has come too far for anything like that to happen. Foreign observers should not underestimate us. We would never sit back and watch our country deteriorate” – 1998 pro-democracy activist

An article about Indonesia’s Presidential Elections I wrote for this month’s Kashmir Walla Magazine: a magazine of art, politics, and society. The magazine also currently features extensive eye-witness coverage of the conflict in Gaza, as well as on-going coverage and commentary on the situation in Kashmir

Indonesia's Election Commission (KPU). Image
Indonesia’s Election Commission (Komisi Pilihan Umum, KPU). Image

“We Indonesians believe that no matter what happens and no matter who wins, we could never slip back into something resembling the Suharto era. It could never happen. There are too many people watching, we are all watching. And we all know that Indonesia has come too far for anything like that to happen. Foreign observers should not underestimate us. We would never sit back and watch our country deteriorate” – 1998 Democracy Activist (active in recent campaigning, who decided here to remain unnamed)

Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy with 187 million voters including 67 million first-time voters, voted last Wednesday July 12 for their next President. By the time the exit-polls had been counted, it felt like the nation exhaled momentarily. But that relief has been short-lived.

Although the official results of Indonesia’s presidential election yesterday will not be known until July 22, both candidates, Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, now have claimed victory based on exit polling and quick counts. As a result, political tensions in Jakarta are rising, and Indonesians are growing increasingly anxious as to what this means for Indonesia’s democracy.

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono today urged the election chief to ensure a transparent vote count following the disputed presidential poll, after both sides raised fears the other may party may tamper with the ballots. And this is not without reason.

Indonesia is one of the world’s most graft-ridden countries, and the country’s political elite is part of a very intertwined network of power and privilidge. Even though Indonesia made the transition from dictatorship to direct presidential elections a decade ago after the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998, Indonesia is still ranked 114th among 177 on a 2013 Transparency International Survey, with the nation’s judiciary, police and parliament ranked among the least trustworthy institutions.

Although the election was violence-free, a result perceived as questionable by either side still risks major public protests. Speaking ahead of the election, the army chief of staff General Budiman had already said the potential for conflict between supporters of Prabowo and Jokowi was “high,” as the Jakarta Post reported on its website July 7. This is a particular risk given the very vast differences between the two candidates and their respective supporters: Jokowi is the “man of the people” candidate, from humble beginnings and without ties to the political elite, whilst Prabowo is a former military general and the former son-in-law of Suharto alleged to have ordered the abduction of democracy activists before the Suharto’s downfall. 

At a rally for Gaza yesterday Prabowo told journalists “there are reports that some election boxes have been stolen, our witnesses are being intimidated”. In making statements like these, it appears the former military man will not go quietly.

The quick counts give Jokowi a lead of around 8 million votes, which is a margin of about 4 percentage points. And it is this slim margin that has given rise to growing tension.

Fears of tension and potential violence by analysts are not just about the close margin, but more about what the some candidate’s supporters are capable of, in particular, Prabowo. Some analysts have expressed concern that with his history, his ties to military, citizen militia groups, and extensive and powerful networks across the country that he might try to bully the election commission or engage in violent protest.

But despite all the public discussion and debate about the potential for unrest, many Indonesians I have spoken to over the past week, from street merchants to members of Indonesia’s parliament, are quietly optimistic. This is in contrast to the many foreign observers.

For ordinary Indonesians, perhaps that comes with the experience of watching the country go through so much turmoil and change over the past 16 years. As one Indonesian who was active in student protests during the Suharto era told me, “we Indonesians believe that, no matter what happens and no matter who wins, we could never slip back into something resembling the Suharto era. It could never happen. There are too many people watching, we are all watching. And we all know that Indonesia has come too far for anything like that to happen. Foreign observers should not underestimate us. We would never sit back and watch our country deteriorate”.

Whilst alert to the all possibilities of what could happen over the next two weeks, it appears many Indonesians hope that the candidates and their supporters will accept and honour the results of the election, and that when the final results are revealed on July 22, the wheels of Indonesian democracy will keep turning.

Jokowi-JK: The Power of Political Participation and Civic Volunteerism

Jokowi with hundreds of thousands of supporters, the last campaign at Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta. Image:
Jokowi with hundreds of thousands of supporters, the last campaign at Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta. Image:

An interesting factor to have come out of the 2014 Presidential Campaign has been the power of the various citizen-led campaigns through which the Jokowi-JK campaign was promoted, showing that political volunteerism in Indonesia has emerged as a powerful political force in the 2014 Presidential Election.

As Fahd Djibran explains, “thousands of volunteers carried the Jokowi-JK message, ranging from the celebrities, activists, religious leaders to ordinary citizens”. Also interesting was the phenomenon of voluntarism among celebrities, as Djibran elaborates, “in Indonesia such figures are usually employed as “paid players”, but in the instance of the Jokowi-JK campaign they voluntarily participated in campaigning and devoted themselves in a more ideological capacity, and prove to themselves that they are not merely campaign “sweetener”s or “cheerleaders” alone”.

The Support of Indonesian Artists

Jokowi Pictured with Rock Band Slank. Image
Jokowi Pictured with Rock Band Slank. Image

The music group Slank was among the ranks of volunteers behind the Jokowi-JK campaign. A rock group estimated to have more than 8 million followers in Indonesia, or nearly 5% of the population of Indonesia, their followers are known as “Slankers”.

Although there is no exact data about the number of “Slankers” in Indonesia, the official membership of Slankers registered in 98 cities in Indonesia amounts to more than one million members. Slank mobilised the support in the ranks of their fans to promote the Jokowi-JK message, and also on a voluntary basis. The rock group also wrote a song and organised a concert in support of the Jokowi-JK campaign.

Other celebrities involved in the Jokowi-JK campaign also include Glen Fredly, JFlow, Cak Lontong, Oppie Andal, Olga Lydia, Crossfade, Tompi and SID working in the area and the ability of each to support Jokowi-JK.

“Salam 2 Jari” Concert

Last Sunday, more than 100 artists and musicians held the event “Salam 2 Jari” to promote the Jokowi-JK campaign. The artists invovlved were not asked to do so by the Jokowi-JK campaigners. The event was orgnaised soleley in support of the Jokowi-JK campaign, and shows a growing awareness and willingness amongst Indonesians to engage actively in the democratic process.

The emergence of this kind of voluntarism in the context of politics in Indonesia reveals the development an exciting new phase in Indonesia’s democratic story.

The activism of Indonesian civil society against the slick campaigns of Indonesia’s political elite shows that democracy is the real winner here, and heralds a new era of political engagement by the people of Indonesia.

Read more analysis and discussion at


Indonesia’s Presidential Election and the Battle Between Campaign Strategists

Joko Widodo greets supporters on Wednesday after an early vote count put him in the lead in Indonesia. Zuma Press
Joko Widodo greets supporters on Wednesday after an early vote count put him in the lead in Indonesia. Image Zuma Press

“I would not be willing to promote a win by making the culture of discrimination in Indonesia worse. That would be a poison that would continue to undermine the public even though the election is over. A mature political consultant should also concerned with the growth of democracy and the rights of the nation” – Denny JA

A Presidential election is not only a battle between two presidential candidates and two political machines, it is also a battle between strategists. This was also true in the case of the Indonesia’s 2014 Presidential campaign, where we saw the playing out of  a battle between campaign strategies prepared by an American PR consultant in camp Prabowo, and those of an Indonesian expert in public opinion and voting behavior in camp Jokowi.

Rob Allyn joined the Prabowo campaign team this year and is a political consultant who studied under Henry Kissinger at Georgetown, helped George W. Bush become governor of Texas in 1994 and consults for large corporations like Coca Cola. Denny JA at camp Jokowi is an anti-discrimination campaigner and also known as the founder of the tradition of political consultancy to Indonesia.

It has been widely reported in Indonesian media that Prabowo hired the American political consultant who is a well-known expert in negative and smear campaigning, with confirming the fact with Prabowo’s Gerindra Party on July 5, 2014.

Negative Vs Positive Campaign Tactics

The Prabowo versus Jokowi battle became increasingly colourful in it’s last weeks, as it also involved a battle between two political consultant types: between “black” or smear campaign tactics, and “positive grassroots and targeted” campaigning.

The most decisive part of the battle between Prabowo and Jokowi really happened in the last 20 days. Based on an LSI survey (Indonesian Survey Foundation) done in early June 2014, the margin to victory in the Jokowi camp was at 6.3%. But at the end of June 2014 it plunged again to only 0.5%, below the margin of error. Under these conditions, losing and winning became dependent on penetrating the intelligence of the voters until the final days before the election.

The Black Campaign

The alleged “Black Campaign” involved the spreading of lies about Jokowi’s ethnic and religious identity and, according to Denny JA, saw a marked drop in Jokowi’s popularity throughout the period in which they were employed.

These stories described Jokowi as a non-indigenous Indonesian, from a religious minority (some described him as begin a “secret “Chinese Christian”), and later accused him of having a PKI (Indonesian Communist Party) background.

Stories about Jokowi were circulated to remote villages. Even small children in slum alleys  were heard shouting:” Jokowi hasn’t been circumcised yet.” And false news like this is enough to influence voters who come from conservative Muslim backgrounds, regional voters, and those from middle to lower socio-economic groups, according Denny JA and the LSI.

Based on the LSI survey between January – June 2014, support to Jokowi in the segment of voters was down from 50 percent to below 40%. Not surprisingly, there was a shift of support from Jokowi to Prabowo.

The black campaign against Jokowi was systematic, and could only be carried out by leaders who understand the behaviour of voters.

Denny JA Joins Team Jokowi

Denny JA spoke by phone with Jokowi on Saturday April 26 around 20:30, and it was at this time that Jokowi accepted his offer to join his team to prepare a strategy outside the official campaign team.

The next day, on Sunday, April 27, 2014, Denny JA met face with Jokowi in Luhut Pandjaitan. At that time they discussed how the Jokowi team would utilise the strength of civil society and volunteers, rather than relying on political parties and the media.

As support for Jokowi continued to decline, opinions had formed amongst Indonesia’s elite that Jokowi was going to lose the election. At this point, the team strategized a positive campaign against “black campaign” devised by Rob Allyn. This campaign was targeted at grassroots voters and the upper middle class.

The Strategy of Team jokowi

The strategy employed by Team Jokowi and Denny JA utilised networks in 11 provinces of Indonesia, more than 70% of the Indonesian population. Thousands of trained volunteers engaged voters in door-to-door campaigning. Through this strategy, Denny JA says millions were reached. Concentrated effort were also focussed on Indonesia’s 3 largest provinces: West Java, Central Java and East Java.

To program this strategy, Denny JA cooperated with Timses Volunteers under Eriko. Denny asked Eriko provide 30 volunteer groups in every province. Focus was also made on the campaign trail.

The first strategy was the Jokowi “First 100 Days” Promise. During this period Jokowi promised to focus on addressing three major issues: economic, political/legal and cultural.

These election promises were then advertised. First through Kompas Media and then extended to mainstream media advertising, including billboards, banners and flyers. The team also engaged social media.

Second,  Jokowi’s 5 point political contract with the “small folk” (orang kecil) was made concrete with the pledge of providing one million rupiah per month to poor families, increasing the salaries of civil servants, teachers, police and military, and the promise of creating 10 million new jobs. This contract was also widely advertised.

Black Campaigning “A Poison” in a Country with a History of  Ethnic and Religious Discrimination

Denny JA countered the Allyn orchestrated “black campaign” with positive campaign to attract grassroots and upper middle class engagement in the Jokowi campaign. As Denny JA explained, ” I could have also used a black campaign style to detract from Prabowo’s edge. However, I was not willing to do so. I have been a long time campaigner for an Indonesia Without Discrimination,” he said.

Denny JA denounced the use of religion and ethnicity in political campaigning, although these tactics can engage voters through the politics of fear. As he explained, “I would not be willing to promote a win by making the culture of discrimination in Indonesia worse. That would be a poison that would continue to undermine the public even though the election is over. A mature political consultant should also concerned with the growth of democracy and the rights of the nation,” he said.

Denny JA claims he joined the Jokowi camp “without any official request” but out of a personal wish “to help Jokowi. Willing to spend from his own pocket if needs be, this was a matter of ideals”, he said.

Exit Poll counts show Mr. Widodo with a lead of 3-6 percentage points.

More commentary on the Jokowi strategy, see

We Vote for Peace: A message from the Indonesian community in Melbourne

A message from members of the Indonesian community in Melbourne : We Vote for Peace 

In this election, we are proving that the power of civil society determines what leadership means to our country. We, the people of Indonesia, determine the journey of our democracy. We demand a leader who would protect and listen to our needs.

Either which candidate wins the election, we, the Indonesian people, are the real winners.

We are winning, once again, in establishing leadership through democracy
It is yet a perfect process, we still see faults and fraudulence. But our democracy is growing.

Please watch and share! English subtitles available

Pesan Damai Dari Melbourne

[Video] Pesan Damai dari Melbourne

Melalui pemilu ini, kita telah menunjukkan bahwa kekuatan rakyat sipil bisa menentukan sikap calon pemimpin kita. Masyarakat sipil-lah yang menentukan arah demokrasi kita. Siapapun pemimpinnya, kita butuh kepala negara yang melindungi dan mendengarkan aspirasi masyarakatnya.

Kandidat manapun yang memenangi pemilu, rakyat indonesia adalah pemenang sesungguhnya.

Kita telah dengan berhasil, sekali lagi, melahirkan pemimpin negara dari proses demokrasi. Meski masih terdapat beberapa kekurangan di sana-sini, kecurangan di sana-sini, demokrasi kita sedang menuju kematangan dan kedewasaannya.


Please watch and share! English subtitles available

The ‘Military Strongman’ Vs ‘The Man of the People’ – A Tired Narrative

In reading foreign coverage of the presidential election campaign I’ve increasingly seen descriptions of potentially two very different Indonesia’s emerging under two “very different” leaders. Coverage from expat journalists out of Jakarta is inevitably following the same tired narrative of an election between the ‘Military Strongman’ and the ‘Man of the People’, images that have, in fact, been constructed and exploited by strategists and marketeers from each candidate’s election campaign team.

At the moment, polls are showing an increase in the popularity of Prabowo, whose controversial human rights record from his years as a general has not seemed to be a major problem in the election race.

As Asia Sentinel reported, “with very few policy differences between the two campaigns, the more potent factor in Prabowo’s favor seems to be a rising perception that he looks more like a “leader” than Joko”. Or as Dr Dave McRae pointed out on Election Watch:

“At a fundamental level, Indonesians face a choice between a president who promises to govern with them, and one who would govern over them. Neither candidate is concealing this choice – it is fundamental to their respective image and appeal.

Whereas Jokowi is a product of Indonesia’s democratic era, springboarded to his current position by his popularity as a small-town mayor and Jakarta governor, Prabowo is firmly part of the authoritarian-era establishment”.

The Prabowo appeal is causing many Western commentators to wring their hands, and for good reasons. I’ve been following coverage from the Australian National University’s New Mandela website with articles written by very well qualified and respected academics, but all of the articles have also followed the same tired “goodie vs baddie” narrative, with less analysis of the electoral appeal of the leader than I would have liked to have seen.

Whilst I have absolutely no hard data about the reasons behind the emerging poll trends in favour of Prabowo, during this election period I have asked Prabowo many supporters about why they support him, despite his shady past. The reasons they cite are usually the following: A) Whilst they like Jokowi, they feel he is not ready for the role B) Prabowo represents a strong leadership figure C) They don’t like Jokowi’s running mate, former President Megawati D) Indonesia needs a more authoritarian government and E) With the exception of Gus Dur, they are exceedingly dissapointed with Indonesia’s Presidents following the fall of Suharto, and feel that democracy did little to change Indonesia’s situation for the better F) They don’t know “who’s interests” are behind Jokowi.

This discusion of the so-called “interests” behind Jokowi has probably come from some of the smear campaign tactics we have seen emerge of late, claiming Jokowi is a “Secret Christian/Chinese/American lackey”. The conspiracy theories abound, and it will be interesting to eventually see who was behind this election tactic. But back to the point..

Whilst I have not heard one Indonesian say they would like to go back to a military dictatorship, and this is about perception over reality, many Prabowo voters also say that they feel Indonesian democracy has served the interest of the elite more than anyone.

From what I have gathered through everyday conversations, it seems some supporters of the Prabowo camp represent a section of Indonesian society fondly remember the certainty and prosperity of life under a military dictatorship. Whilst other supporters, particularly the younger ones, explain that they look to Prabowo as a leader capable of making hard decisions and leading Indonesia from the top down.

Consequently, the Indonesian people are not choosing between vastly different candidates on a policy basis. There aren’t actually major differences between the two candidates on a policy basis. Indonesians are choosing between two opposing regimes which represent vastly different views on the role of the president and his relationship with the nation. And of late, that appeal is to the leader with a well-constructed-by-the-PR-team “tough man” image.