Jokowi’s Rise and Indonesia’s Second Democratic Transition

August 2, 2014

APBNumber 273 | August 1, 2014


Jokowi’s Rise and Indonesia’s Second Democratic Transition

By Vibhanshu Shekhar

“Indonesian democracy no longer feeds off an elite-led political framework and Indonesia’s elected leaders need not have a military background or connection with political families or business elites. For the first time, a village (kampung) boy and a commoner with no political legacy managed to defeat a powerful coalition of traditional political elites that had gathered around Prabowo Subianto, who is a former military general and son-in-law of former Indonesian dictator Suharto. The bulk of Jokowi’s election financing came in the form of small donations, in comparison to Prabowo’s large-scale contributions from a small group of elites.”–Vibhanshu Shekhar

The electoral battle for the presidency in the world’s largest Muslim–and Asia’s second largest–democracy finally came to a close on July 22 when the Indonesian Election Commission (KPU) announced Djoko Widodo, popularly known as “Jokowi,” as the winner. Jokowi’s victory highlights the growing popular and political support for a new kind of democratic politics in Indonesia that is progressive, transparent and broad-based, and that thrives on the expectations of a generation of young people born in a democratic Indonesia.

Jokowi. IrJokowi’s rise marks the beginning of Indonesia’s second democratic transition. The official announcement of the result has put an end to weeks of divisive and emotionally charged campaigns, and two weeks of post-election stalemate that pushed the country towards political uncertainty. Both candidates–Jokowi and Prabowo Subianto–had each claimed victory based on unofficial counts. Prabowo has accused the KPU of “massive, systematic and structural cheating” and petitioned before the Constitutional Court, Indonesia’s apex body on election matters, for an annulment of the KPU results and its declaration of Jokowi’s victory. It should be noted that the Constitutional Court received such petitions during both the previous presidential elections of 2004 and 2009, and rejected them.

Out of the approximately 135 million valid votes cast, Jokowi received 53 percent and won the majority of votes in 23 provinces, whereas Prabowo won the majority of votes in 10 provinces in West Java and further west. Jokowi received the majority of his votes from the most populous island of Java–approximately 54 percent–and the outer islands of Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and Papua. He also won a majority of votes in those provinces where minority communities are in the majority, such as Bali, Papua, and West Papua, highlighting support for his policy of inclusivism. Total eligible voters in Indonesia are nearly 190 million.

Jokowi’s victory, besides putting democracy in Indonesia on a much stronger footing, has highlighted the changing characteristics of democracy in that country, which can well be viewed as Indonesia’s second democratic transition. While the Reformasi movement of 1998 introduced democracy to Indonesia under a negotiated settlement between the political elite and civil society, this second transition has witnessed civil society effectively wresting control of the political process from the hands of the political elite. This is what Philips J. Vermonte of CSIS Indonesia terms the “beginning of an end of old oligarchic politics,” an ascent of a new generation of leadership without any political legacy or long-standing patronage system.

Indonesian democracy no longer feeds off an elite-led political framework and Indonesia’s elected leaders need not have a military background or connection with political families or business elites. For the first time, a village (kampung) boy and a commoner with no political legacy managed to defeat a powerful coalition of traditional political elites that had gathered around Prabowo Subianto, who is a former military general and son-in-law of former Indonesian dictator Suharto. The bulk of Jokowi’s election financing came in the form of small donations, in comparison to Prabowo’s large-scale contributions from a small group of elites.

Megawati Sukarnoputri, the leader of Jokowi’s party, the Indonesian Party of Struggle (PDI-P), read the winds of change better than her counterparts. Sensing the growing popularity and electability of Jokowi, Megawati decided to hand over the mantle of the PDI-P to him and nominate him as her party’s presidential candidate, shunning both her own and, moreover, her daughter’s budding presidential ambitions. Jokowi’s victory, along with his sporadic and spontaneous mobilization of voters, took place despite his unorganized election campaign and the continuing unpopularity of Megawati.

A new political voting class in Indonesia is now beginning to emerge that is keen to play a role in the country’s democratic politics, is well-informed of issues and interests, and expects a government that is accountable. They are assertively pushing forward an agenda of good governance and transparent leadership that is reform-oriented and free of corruption. They treat democracy as intrinsically ingrained in their identity and place a premium on transparency and accountability. As their expectations are going up, this new-emerging techno-savvy voter bloc is demanding effective responses from the political elite over various issues, such as countering corruption, addressing current economic challenges, and a more responsive government. Their continuing frustration with political parties is evident from the fact that no single party received more than 20 percent of votes in the April general elections. On the other hand, Jokowi’s lackluster and commoner’s image attracted their attention, and their vote.

Rules of the game in Indonesian politics have become more democratic with political parties, institutions and citizens adhering to democratic norms. For example, even though the recalcitrant Prabowo had objections to the KPU process, he has, to date, adhered to the institutional procedures laid out by the electoral rules and regulations. Indonesian democracy has just survived the nerve-racking pressure of political mobilization amidst a highly charged emotional situation, and at the same time, successfully resisted the temptation to resort to violent conduct.

No major case of violence was reported on the actual day of the presidential elections, during the process of tallying votes, or during the celebrations afterwards. This trend of democratic consolidation is also discernible from the increased capacity of the different governing institutions to regulate and manage the election process. Indonesian elections are being managed with increased efficiency by the relevant agencies and institutions carrying out their allocated roles, notwithstanding procedural complexities, and logistical difficulties associated with the elections. The KPU has delivered very efficiently and without bias. Indonesia conducted this electoral exercise twice within three months, first to elect the parties and candidates for the national, provincial and municipal legislative bodies (April 9), and then to elect the country’s president (July 9). In total, approximately 190 million citizens exercised their voting rights twice. Each of the elections took place in a single day, making it the largest electoral exercise in the world.

The failure of Prabowo’s Suharto style of politics of fear and intimidation in bringing about the desired result augurs well for Indonesian democracy to let go of its extremely difficult and torturous past under Suharto. Jokowi’s presidency now offers Indonesians another five years to move beyond the baggage of Suharto’s dictatorship and usher the country into another chapter of solidifying real democratic governance. Many, both within and outside of Indonesia, had feared that the Prabowo variant of elite-led politics dominated by moneyed interests, oligarchs, and religious extremists along with his advocacy of strong leadership, would arrest Indonesia’s democratic momentum and plunge the country back into the dreaded authoritarian politics of the Suharto era. It was in this context of safeguarding their fledgling democracy that two Indonesian newspapers–the Jakarta Post and Media Indonesia–went to the extent of officially endorsing Jokowi and breaking their neutrality on the ground that stakes were too high in this election.

Notwithstanding Jokowi’s rise, Indonesia’s second democratic transition remains a work in progress. It is a not going to be a completely smooth process, due primarily to the minority nature of Jokowi’s government and the inevitable continuity of coalition politics within Indonesia. A rough road lies ahead for the Jokowi presidency, particularly in the legislative body that will offer strong resistance from the conservative elite to any effort to introduce more democratic change and politico-economic reforms. Now that voters have had their say, the difficult act of balancing various political forces and factions will require deft diplomacy from newcomer Jokowi.

About the Author

Dr. Vibhanshu Shekhar is a Scholar-in-Residence at ASEAN Studies Center, School of International Service, American University. He can be contacted via email at


The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue. Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Damien Tomkins, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

Indonesia’s New Leadership

July 23, 2014

The Guardian view on what the election of Joko Widodo will mean for Indonesia


The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014 19.55 BST

Jokowi JK

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country, the third largest democracy, and the biggest Muslim nation. It made the transition from dictatorship to democratic rule after the fall of Suharto in 1998 with remarkable smoothness. For years it counted with Turkey as a leading model of democracy for the Islamic world. Now, with Turkey showing signs of a regression to authoritarianism, troubled democracies in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and only Tunisia still holding on to what now seem the very fleeting achievements of the Arab spring, Indonesia constitutes, because of its size and importance, a massive and even more relevant proof that democracy can work as well in Muslim societies as in others.

The victory of Joko Widodo in the presidential elections, although still disputed by his opponent, represents a further advance in Indonesian political life. It means that for the first time a person with no direct connections with the older, authoritarian era will occupy the country’s highest office. The departing president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was an ex-military man from the Suharto years and the son-in-law of a general involved in the massacres of communists in the 60s.

His predecessor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, is the daughter of the first head of state, Sukarno, who also ruled, under his “Guided Democracy”, in an authoritarian way. The first president after Suharto, Abdurrahman Wahid, was the scion of a leading religious family. Although these two were opposition figures, they still had connections with the largely military ruling class. The other candidate in this election, Prabowo Subianto, a former Special Forces General and a son-in-law of Suharto, was very much from that class. Joko Widodo is not. He comes from a humble background, working his way through school and then becoming a successful but middling businessman.

Indonesia managed its way out of the shipwreck of the old regime by a series of complex compromises between old and new, with the dangers of violence, separatism, parliamentary dysfunction and party proliferation very much in mind. These had destroyed Indonesian democracy in the 50s. There was no generalised purge. The problem was that too much of the old might survive, with only slightly reconstructed figures from Suharto’s “New Order” continuing to dominate, and service in the armed forces or membership of the intertwined business elite of those years continuing to be a qualification for power. The connections between old and new are by no means entirely hacked away. Prabowo may be gone, but Jokowi, as he is known, is the protege of Megawati and has as his vice-presidential running mate Jusuf Kalla, a former Chairman of Golkar, the old government party under the New Order. But there is nevertheless a sense that a new chapter has now begun in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s Decisive Moment

July 21, 2014

Indonesia’s Decisive Moment

by Farish A.

TOMORROW will mark the decisive moment when Indonesians will know who will be the country’s next president. The mood in the country — already anxious and tired after a long wait and a hard-fought contest — is one of anticipation and also concern about what will happen next.

Prabowo lawan JokowiIt is interesting to note that despite the fact that both candidates have refused to concede defeat, cracks have begun to show among some of their supporters already: Abdillah Toha, one of the founding leaders of the Peoples’ Trust Party (PAN), has appealed to the Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa camp to admit defeat and to accept the results, whatever the outcome may be.

Unfortunately, it is not likely that this stalemate will be resolved any time soon. For starters, the final margin between the two candidates proved to be much smaller than hoped for, by both sides.

The Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Jusuf Kalla camp had signalled that it expected, and wished for, a lead of more than 10 per cent. This has not happened, and after the quick count results came in two weeks ago, it appeared that the lead enjoyed by Jokowi-Kalla’s camp was less than five per cent. A smaller number of quick count agencies suggested that the Prabowo-Hatta camp had gained the lead, but again, with a margin of less than five per cent.

Thus, there is the likelihood that whoever wins the race by tomorrow would have done so by the narrowest of margins and, thereby, opening up the opportunity for the other side to dispute the results and, perhaps, even take the matter to court. Hopeful though many political analysts are at the moment, it seems that tomorrow will not see a final, neat, clean conclusion to what has been a messy race.

Then, there is the question of how the new President of Indonesia will be able to gain support within the Peoples Assembly, or DPR. At the moment, the parties that dominate DPR happen to be aligned with Prabowo’s Gerindra and Hatta’s PAN. The Gerindra-PAN-led alliance totally dominates DPR at the moment, and should Jokowi-Kalla manage to win, the next president of Indonesia will be faced with the challenge of having to push for laws and reforms against what may well be a hostile assembly.

But, the uncertainty does not stop there, for the Gerindra-PAN alliance may also face its own internal difficulties if some of the parties aligned with it now decide to jump ship and hop over to PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party — Struggle)-led alliance. Over the past week, voices of discontent have emerged among the ranks of Golkar, in particular (that is currently part of the Gerindra-PAN alliance), where members have called for a serious rethinking of their current position. Golkar has never been in opposition, and should it turn out that Jokowi-Kalla wins after all, some of the leaders of Golkar have called for the party to join the ruling and winning coalition.

All this is taking place amid a society that has grown bored and tired with sensational politics, and where everyone seeks a quick and neat resolution. What is worrisome, however, is that already there is talk of parties sending out thousands of members and supporters to “safeguard” (mengamankan) the election results and announcement of the new president tomorrow. When analysts note that this may well be Indonesia’s most serious challenge and test so far, they were not exaggerating. Indonesia’s fate may well be decided by tomorrow, and the rest of ASEAN will feel the impact as well.

Malaysia–the best predictors of electoral outcomes

July 14, 2014

Malaysia–the best predictors of electoral outcomes

The Cambodian People’s Party: A Deficit of Leadership

July 9, 2014

The Cambodian People’s Party: A Deficit of Leadership

Malaysia’s Bernama in Apparent Plagiarism of JG Election Stories

July 7, 2014

Malaysia’s Bernama in Apparent Plagiarism of JG Election Stories

By Jakarta Globe on 11:15 pm Jul 06, 2014


Jakarta. Malaysia’s national news agency, Bernama, was found to have plagiarized, word for word, two articles that were published by the Jakarta Globe.

On Saturday, July 5, as part of its live coverage of the fifth and final presidential debate, the Globe published an article on its website titled “In Closing Debate, Joko Promises Bureaucratic ‘Breakthrough,’ While Prabowo Strives for ‘A Dignified Nation.’”

The following day, it was discovered that Bernama had published a similar article titled, “Joko Promises Bureaucratic ‘Breakthrough,’ While Prabowo Strives for ‘A Dignified Nation.’”

The Malaysian news agency had copied the Globe’s piece verbatim, attributing one of the many quotes in the article to this newspaper.Bernama also removed the names of Globe reporters Josua Gantan and Andrea Wijaya, the original authors of the story, replacing the byline with what is assumed to be the name of a Bernama journalist, Elmi Rizal Alias.

On the same day, Singapore-based Channel News Asia republished the plagiarized article on its website. The piece, however, had been renamed, “Indonesia Election: Jokowi, Prabowo Face Off in Final TV Debate.”

Not the first time

Upon further investigation, it was discovered that Monday’s discovery was not the first time Bernama drew “inspiration” from the Globe.On July 1, following the fourth debate, the Globe uploaded an article on its website titled “Hatta Says Indonesia Should Take Advantage of Its ‘Demographic Bonus.’”The same story was found on Bernama’s website with the slightly altered title “Indonesia Should Take Advantage  of Its ‘Demographic Bonus’ — Hatta.”

Similarly, the Malaysian news agency  only attributed one of the article’s many quotes to the Globe, and replaced the original reporter’s name — Basten Gokkon — with that of the elusive Elmi Rizal Alias.

The Globe made  numerous attempts to contact and seek clarification from Bernama on Sunday. However, the news agency was not immediately available to give comment on the matter.


Serious violation

Wina Armada, a member of the Indonesian Press Council and an expert in press law from the University of Indonesia, told the Globe that the incident amounted to “a serious violation of [Indonesia’s] copyright laws.”

“For a case like this, the law is such that even if the disadvantaged party does not file a police report about the incident, the police can still take action against the perpetrator,” Wina said.

“If it is true that [the Bernama reporter] has plagiarized [the Globe’s articles], according to Indonesian laws, the Malaysian journalist can be [charged and] imprisoned,” he said.Wina added that the incident was particularly regrettable as Bernama was the official news agency for the Malaysian government, under its Ministry of Communication and Multimedia.

“From a journalistic point of view, this is a serious violation of the journalistic code of ethics. This is not professional journalism,” he said. “Moreover, this is not only partial [plagiarism] — the whole [article] has been plagiarized. Plagiarism is a very basic error in journalism. If this is true, the perpetrator should not be allowed to continue his profession as a journalist.

“This should not be condoned. In journalism, upholding credibility and honesty should be number one,” Wina added.

Hikmahanto Juwana, an international law expert from the University of Indonesia, similarly told the Globe that the incident was regrettable.“They even changed the [Globe] reporters’ names,” Hikmahanto said. “Perhaps [Bernama’s] reporter ran out of news, that’s why he took news [from the Globe].”

In response to the incident, Ruhut Sitompul, a legislator and a member of the legal affairs commission at the Indonesian House of Representatives, said Bernama ought to be “sued for the matter.”“Legal action should be taken against its representative in Indonesia,” Ruhut told the Globe.

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