Leadership lessons in Jakarta pave way for 2014 election — Pitan Daslani
SEPT 24 — Joko Widodo’s victory in the Jakarta gubernatorial election has caused many politicians to re-examine their approach in representing the people’s wishes.
The victory of the governor-elect, known as Jokowi, has vindicated a new theory that many of Indonesia’s major political parties actually do not connect with their constituencies.
Although they claim to represent millions of voters, the biggest irony in Indonesia today is that when it comes to electing a new leader, political parties’ aspirations contradict the wants of the people they represent.
This extreme conclusion emerged during the Jakarta gubernatorial election. When the ruling Democratic Party joined forces with the Islam-based United Development Party (PPP), National Mandate Party (PAN), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Golkar Party to support Fauzi Bowo, the challenger’s camp reacted humbly.
Megawati Sukarnoputri, chairwoman of the Indonesian Democracy Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said that she was “being mobbed by the big players.”
Her candidate, Jokowi, reacted to the establishment of the big coalition by saying that he would “set up a coalition with the people” because he believed that “people power would be enough” to confront the power of the big coalition.
Based on the result of the first round of voting on July 11, it looked like Fauzi would win the runoff because PKS, PPP and Golkar had joined the ruling party’s coalition and, theoretically, their followers would vote for Fauzi in the runoff.
The coalition did not understand that those who voted for Fauzi during the first round could easily change their minds and go against him in the second round. The politicians did not understand that voters made their choices, not because they believed in the dictates of the political parties, but because they were smart and politically mature enough to use sound rationale and good political logic.
The politicians thought that Jakarta voters were the kind of people who could easily be misled and persuaded to buy into their ethnic and religious slurs.
They were wrong. Most of the voters refused to cast their votes based on religious and ethnic considerations. Even at the polling stations near the homes of Fauzi and his running mate, Nachrowi Ramli, most of the native Betawi voters opted for Jokowi and his running mate, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. Ahok is a Christian of Chinese ethnicity, but his background did not matter to Muslim voters who constitute the majority of Jakarta’s population.
Learning their lesson
The first lesson that political parties need to learn is that voters are too smart to be fooled. They will abandon political parties that fail to understand what they want.
The most important characteristic of an increasingly prosperous society is that people want change and they want it to happen quickly to ensure justice, transparency, social solidarity and a better life.
The fast expansion of the middle class means that politicians need to redefine their approach to this economically powerful and well-educated segment of society lest they be abandoned. Outdated postures as well as ethnic and religious slurs come as an insult to such a level of society.
The second lesson that needs to be learned is that society wants a new generation of leaders. Old public figures will not “sell” well now because the Jakarta election, as the barometer for Indonesia, has produced young leaders with whom most of the voters, especially young people, associate themselves. Young voters look at Jokowi and Ahok as “one of us.” Jokowi was born in 1961 and Ahok in 1966.
The third lesson politicians must now learn is that today’s Indonesian voters hate bossy, bureaucratic-looking, aristocrat-like public figures running for office.
Such candidates will not be seen as “one of us” by the majority of voters whose new belief in democracy and human rights has torn down the walls that separated the haves from the have-nots. Jokowi’s humble lifestyle was more powerful than anything money could create as a magnet to attract public sympathy.
Instead of giving the people money to support him, it was the people who voluntarily supported Jokowi in many ways. Even in his speech immediately after the announcement of his quick-count victory, Jokowi told supporters that he had nothing to give them right away but would work for the sake of Jakarta’s citizens and make sure that “nobody would be left behind.”
The fourth and most notable lesson from Jokowi’s victory is that money politics did not work here. Voters did not expect money from Jokowi, they only wanted a leader who could introduce change and live among them. So, it is political parties and transactional politicians who are spoiling society with money in order to satisfy their short-term selfish ambitions.
The fifth lesson for political parties comes from the televised gubernatorial candidate debates. Voters don’t like to see officials exhibiting a defensive — as if flawless — posture. At one point during the first debate on JakTV, Jokowi used the phrase, “according to a stupid person like me ... ” when he criticised Fauzi’s transportation policy.
Only a humble leader like Jokowi can do that. Public figures who hail from upper segments of society and who do no mingle with the lower walks of life would avoid using such a phrase because they think it would downgrade their image. That is wrong. Jokowi proved that by expressing such a humble remark, he drew millions of people to his camp with his humility.
A new lesson now is that in politics, arrogance is your biggest enemy and being defensive the quickest way to reveal your dishonesty and lack of self-awareness. Fauzi is actually a great leader, a smart architect who received a doctorate in Germany, specialising in city planning. But in terms of political communication, he failed to impress voters.
So, the sixth lesson politicians need to learn is that the power of a true campaign lies not in your appearance in front of the people’s eyes but in communicating with their hearts.
Ours is a society fraught with hypocrisy. Appearing defensively flawless — the ultimate goal of all the image-building campaigns — is a confirmation of the opposite. People don’t believe in appearances today. They believe in being one’s self, transparent and humble.
A brand new day
A new awareness is now growing in society that a true leader is one who serves rather than one who seeks to be served. Jokowi knows this very well and puts it into practice.
But we must also acknowledge Fauzi’s political maturity. He called Jokowi right after learning of his defeat and congratulated his challenger. This is the right attitude that must be socialised among political leaders. Objectivity and patriotism in politics as such must be perpetuated in our culture.
The Jakarta election represents a huge political mirror for all the big parties to examine themselves. If they don’t make adjustments, voters will abandon them.
This is a prelude to the presidential election in 2014. — The Jakarta Globe
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.