Anies Baswedan & Presidential Election.

All’s fair in Indonesian presidential race.

Anies with Christmas Carrol participants, Jakarta, December 2019. (Anies disambut umat Kristiani).

Benarkah, Anies harus lebih ke “tengah”? Ada sinyalemen bahwa, jika ingin meningkatkan elektabilitasnya dalam pemilihan presiden tahun 2024 mendatang, maka Anies Baswedan harus “bergeser” ke tengah. Sebagai disiratkan Direktur Eksekutif Parameter Politik Indonesia Adi Prayitno, Anies (yang pernah dituduh membiarkan dirinya dipakai oleh kelompok Islam tertentu untuk meraih kemenangannya dalam Pilkad DKI 2017 silam) agar bergeser lebih ke “tengah.” Tetapi banyak bukti menunjukkan bahwa sebenarnya Anies selalu berada di tengah: berbagai kegiatannya selama memimpin Jakarta memperlihatkan hal itu. Tulisan di The New Straits Times 4 September ini menjelaskannya.

The article has been published in The New Straits Times, Malaysia, 4 September 2022 under the title, “All’s fair in Indonesian presidential race. (click here).

Adi Prayitno, a political analyst and the Executive Director of Parameter Politik Indonesia, gave an interesting argument about the electability of Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan for the 2024 presidential election.

He argued that Anies needs to shift more to the “middle” to improve his electability, seen fair and affective in the eyes of the citizens, as found in the Parameter’s surveys.

Over the years, Baswedan has been accused for using religious sentiments to win the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election, beating incumbent Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who then was jailed for blasphemy.

He was also labelled as an “inflexible leader”, leaning to certain Islamic groups to hold his electability. Yet, no compelling proof have been found on that innuendo. Instead, after five years in office, Anies exhibited tolerance by supporting diverse religious events in Jakarta.

It should be noted that recently Anies invited Ahok to his daughter’s wedding, where Ahok sent a congratulatory wreath at the reception in Ancol on July 29.

Political polls show that Anies ranks highest among the top three potential candidates for the 2024 presidential election. Two others are two-time candidate and Gerindra party chairman (and Defense Minister) Prabowo Subianto, and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Taking 1,200 respondents from 34 of Indonesia’s provinces, the Parameter survey found that 52.7 per cent picked a leader based on emotional or psychological connections, more than rational (30.1 per cent) or sociological (2.2 per cent). With the six simulations done, Ganjar, Prabowo, and Anies consistently topped the electability factor.

Based on the survey, Ganjar was presumed to be elected due to his performance as governor in Central Java (26.2 per cent), down-to-earth behaviour (24.4 per cent), and kindness (14.0 per cent). Prabowo was picked for his bravery and firmness (39.1 per cent); and Anies was picked based on his current leadership performance (42.9 per cent) and diligence (10.1 per cent).

Anies always strived to stay in the “middle” through his fairness and tolerance. He supported not only Islamic organisations, but also other religions’ activities through facilitations and funds.

To promote unity, Anies provided operational assistance funds for the houses of worship (known as BOTI), allocated in the city government grant budget. In 2022, Jakarta’s Regional Budget, 352 billion rupiahs were allocated for places of worship and religious institutions in the capital, showing an improved effort from the budgeted 140 billion rupiahs in 2021.

Anies’s government had collaborated with communities and citizens to hold Christmas celebrations in public spaces in 2019, and online in 2020 due to the pandemic. In 2021, the carols took place across the capital streets, involving 30 small and medium enterprises, as well as 30 performers from communities and residents.

Last year’s Christmas in Jakarta series took place from Dec 15, 2021, to Jan 1, 2022, in 15 locations, including Kota Tua, Hotel Indonesia’s Roundabout, Kendal Tunnel, Blok M MRT Station, and Semanggi’s interchange.

“I’ve been in Jakarta since childhood, but this is the first time I celebrate Christmas on the streets. Usually it’s only in our churches, at home or in hotels,” said one of the attendees in Kendal Tunnel, Menteng, Jakarta, on Dec 25, 2021.

In November 2019, Anies facilitated the first Deepavali Festival in Ancol, North Jakarta. In 2021, he even urged the capital’s enterprises to give Hindu workers a holiday to allow them to celebrate wholeheartedly.

Since his time in office, inter-community tolerance in the capital is strong. Credit to Anies for bringing a sense of equality and justice to all Jakarta citizens from all religious denominations.

Nevertheless, in a democratic contestation, choosing a leader invariably involves supporters, lovers, detractors, opponents, and haters.

Supporters and detractors are rational voters who base their decision on the measurable achievements of the candidate, whereas, lovers and haters measure through their limited perceptions and experiences, applying emotions as the foundation for their decision.

“This is one of the weaknesses in democracy and the cause for polarisation that cracks the nation’s unity,” said political analyst, Abdillah Toha in on August 1.

Anies has always been judged well by his proponents, yet his opponents tend to blame him for every fault that happens in the capital, like the accusation of relying on Islamic hardliners like Rizieq Shihab’s FPI, for his benefit.

Recalling the 2017’s Jakarta gubernatorial election between Ahok-Djarot Saiful Hidayat and Anies-Sandiaga Uno, Anies secured passage to the second run-off, having secured approximately 40 per cent of the vote on Feb 15, 2017, behind Ahok with 44 per cent, and well ahead of Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono (AHY) with 16 per cent.

On April 19, 2017, Anies and Sandiaga won the run-off election, with approximately 58 per cent of the votes. Anies was sworn in as governor on Oct 16, 2017, replacing interim governor, Djarot Saiful Hidayat. It was found that Anies and Sandiaga won the second round due to the additional support from AHY’s supporters.

According to Abdillah, this showed that the hardliners’ support was not enough to lead Baswedan to win in the first round. Moreover, the hardliners were also not able to lead Prabowo to win during the 2019 presidential election, proving the limited power they carry in these contestations.

Therefore, Abdillah disagreed with the accusation that Anies is an opportunist and orchestrating support from Muslim hardliners.

“I rather believe that the support from the hardliners is from their own will, and not Anies’ effort to prohibit Ahok in becoming the governor. Had the hardliners supported Ahok and Djarot last 2017, would they reject it?”

Commenting further, Giora Eliraz from University of Washington was quoted as saying:

“Politicians, including in evolved, matured democracies, use political freedom to play on sensitive racial and religious sentiments for electoral interests. In this way, candidates worldwide inflame intolerance, xenophobia, and discrimination, particularly during election campaigns,” stated Eliraz.

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