Jakarta Gubernatorial Election 101


Video Source : Ahok BTP Facebook

I’m writing this post to inform my American friends about what is happening in Jakarta, Indonesia.

In April 19th, the people of Jakarta will decide who is going to be their leader in the next 5 years. In the past, no body really cared about the gubernatorial election, because we knew whoever in charge, it would be the same old – same old (Qui Sera-sera ?).

The attitude has changed since 2012, when Joko Widodo (our current president) and Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (a.k.a Ahok) ran for Governor and Vice Governor. That election has brought a momentum for the people in Jakarta, that change could indeed happen.

In 2014, Joko Widodo ran for our Presidential  election and he got elected. Automatically, his Vice Governor, Ahok, became the Governor of Jakarta until the end of the term (which is October 2017). So, here we are now in April 2017, Ahok, the current incumbent, is trying to run for the re-election. He is paired with Djarot Saiful Hidayat.  And, on the other side of the ring is Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno.

This … could have been just another election, if it were not for the platform of the candidates.

In this post, I am not going to present their programs in infrastructure and development, because I have discussed it briefly on my last post.  I’d rather focus in the implicit meaning of this whole election.

Ahok is considered a double minority in Indonesia. First, he is a Chinese descendant and second, he is a Christian. These two traits are considered disadvantages in running for high governmental position in Indonesia.

A short background about racial issue in Indonesia, is as followed. In the era of Dutch colonization, they realized that Indonesia has so many ethnicities and races. Thus, in order to colonize the country easily, they applied the strategy of divide at impera, which pretty much means divide and rule. The Dutch marginalized ethnicities and categorized us to “pribumi (native)” and “non-pribumi/keturunan (alien/foreigner)”.  Unfortunately, after the Dutch left, this destructive strategy has been rooted deeply in the society and it continues until the modern days. Chinese descendant is still considered “keturunan”, even though we (yeas I am Chinese descendant) have been here for generations. If we really think about it, there is actually no ‘major’ ethnicity in Indonesia. Even among the so-called “pribumi”, it actually consists of hundreds of ethnicity and race, and there is no such thing as ‘majority’. The outward appearance of “pribumi” people in Papua is closer to African American than to Javanese. Some ‘pribumi’ in Kalimantan were even migrated from Indo-China, and looks more like modern day Chinese than people in Aceh. Thus, people with a straight head, would realize and understand that this kind of mindset is a mindset of ‘colonized/slaved’ people.

In terms of religion, Christian is the minority in Indonesia. Up to 80% of the population is Moslem. In Jakarta, it also represents that number. Majority of Moslem are cool headed, but the extremist is only minority. The issue is they are the loudest and they are not afraid to use violence, thus the silent majority becomes intimidated.

NOW, why this election is crucial and important ?

It’s because how these candidates try to represent themselves.

The essence of Ahok-Djarot campaign is ALWAYS, “we don’t care about your race or religion or outward appearance, but if you could do the job, you’re IN !” The campaign always shows the true meaning of Diversity, and in my humble opinion, it is even better than how the US shows it. Honestly, the future US Presidential candidates have to learn from Ahok-Djaort campaign.

The campaign always accentuates “Take people by their characters and skills, neither by the color of their skin, nor by the belief they hold”. Presenting ideas and visions to elevate Jakarta become one of the world cities have been the forefront of the campaign. Never once, they bring the superficial issue as race, ethnicity, or belief.

On the other hand, Anies-Sandiaga campaign is so full of the energy of “you could lead if ONLY you are ‘pribumi’ and Moslem”. This is very unfortunate. I used to support Anies. He was actually the Secretary of Education for Joko Widodo, but got fired last year because incompetency. He is an educated man, but alas, education can’t change heart. These candidates befriend with extremist organizations to gain support. The issue of race, ethnicity and religion, become their big platform. They won’t rebuke/distance themselves from their supporters who are racist and anti-nonMoslem.

In some occasions, Anies also agreed that non-Moslem should NOT be the governor of Jakarta. He believes that people who comes from a different faith from the majority of the populous, cannot be a leader. Bigotry and anti-non-Moslem have become the signature of the campaign. The true nature of a man, who was once considered educated and noble, came out and it turns out he is neither. I guess what Abe Lincoln said still applies “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”.

Based on these platforms, this election has became ‘not just another Jakarta gubernatorial election’. It represents more than that. It represents the battle of mindsets and ideologies, how Indonesia will be presented in the future.
This is the election of 2 mindsets : “People shouldn’t be judged by their superficial appearance” vs. “People HAVE to be judged by those things”.
This is the fight between 2 ideologies : “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity)” vs. “Divide at impera (Divide and Rule)”

For me, I really hope “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” will win. In all honesty, I see Indonesia as the TRUE diverse country in the world. Indonesia is the microcosm of the world. I believe Indonesia could be the MODEL of how diversity should work.

It is not the US, it is not any of the European countries, but it should be INDONESIA. We are born with diversity. The US has just started to learn about ethnic diversity in recent decades, but Indonesia … we’ve had it since even before the country started.

I really pray that this election would bring Indonesia to the next step to become the beacon of TRUE diversity for the world.
In Indonesia, it WOULD happen !


“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King Jr. –

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