05 August 2007

The Jakarta Gubernatorial Elections

The following part was written in the days before the election...

With the campaign period winding down and public debates by the candidates restricted to stage-managed media events now is a good a time as any to reflect on what the future holds for most Jakartans after the election is concluded and the new Governor installed. The candidates are chalk and cheese in terms of political experience with the incumbent Deputy Governor, now looking to be Governor in his own right, being a bureaucrat most of his professional life. On the other hand, there is a retired police officer who reached the pinnacles of his chosen profession now looking to branch out into the political field.

If the election was to be decided only on party support then the incumbent Deputy Governor is a certain winner. Indonesia is no different from any other democracy in that it is not always the best policies that get you elected to office. Yet, it is worth looking at the candidates' policies to see what the future holds. However, considering the level of apathy that abounds in the community where in some surveys the best estimate says that there may be only 35% eligible voter turnout. This means that the next Governor of Jakarta could be elected to office with as little as 17.6% of registered voters. It is always interesting to see a democracy where people for so long did not have the freedom to vote as they choose, struggle to get that right, and then once they do not exercise it. This is an argument or discussion for another blog entry on another day.

Back to the policies of the candidates. As is the case with most politicians their policies are big on rhetoric and somewhat skint on details. However, this said, at least one of the candidates was prepared to enter into a social contract with civil society on promises like reducing unemployment, reducing poverty, reducing flooding, and a number of other key issues for Jakarta. It would be interesting to see whether or not he would want to be held to this social contract in the future, a sort of live by the contract die by the contract venture. There are serious issues facing Jakarta and Jakartans into the future - unemployment is one, the others though are equally and if not more important, such as generating capital investment, reducing pollution which in turn may reduce flooding, improving general law enforcement, reducing corruption and illegal payments in the public sector and public services, transportation infrastructure, and reducing poverty, to name but a few of the challenges. I guess only time will tell on this front...

The following is written after the completion of the election process...

The incumbent Deputy Governor took the vote albeit not by the sizable margin predicted. More interesting and promising for the future was that all the dire predictions of minimal voter turnout did not materialize with some estimates suggesting a turnout of 75% of registered voters. Despite the smaller than expected margin of victory it is clear that the Governor-elect has a mandate to govern. Hopefully, with the support of some 19 political parties this will translate into effective government. However, the winds of change are ever-present as political parties are all too often populist in nature and chop and change course at a heartbeat in pursuit of greater public support.

Life goes on!

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