See More on Facebook

Opinion, Politics

In Indonesia, a nation of voters won’t be swayed

Change no longer the rallying cry in Indonesia.


Written by

Updated: April 18, 2019

When Joko Widodo first ran for president in 2014, Indonesia was in the mood for change.

Everything about Mr Joko then was about hope and change: his path to power, his man-of-the-people image, his focus on services.

A businessman selling furniture in Solo, he was not part of the Jakarta political elite and triumphed at the polls as an outsider candidate.

Leaving aside whether Mr Joko has delivered on his promises or what one might think about his opponent Prabowo Subianto, what is striking today is that change is the furthest thing from voters’ minds. If the projections from the pollsters hold up, then the results of Wednesday’s (April 17) election will be very similar to the 2014 one.

That’s unusual when one considers all the water under the bridge since Mr Joko took his oath of office in October 2014.

Billions have been spent on infrastructure. The country has shifted to the right after the blasphemy trial of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama – Mr Joko’s one-time ally and deputy. Economic growth has been underwhelming but Mr Joko has run a mostly scandal-free government.

Yet the 192 million eligible voters on Wednesday remain fixed in their views.

Take for example Firdaus Amien, 39 in Asem Baris in South Jakarta. Mr Firdaus’s grandfather started the Attahiriah Pesantren – a religious school for girls.

Most people here are dyed- in-the wool supporters of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s biggest Islamic organisation. The district went for Mr Prabowo last time. That Mr Joko chose a former head of the organisation, Ma’ruf Amin, as his running mate has cut no ice with them.

“This is a Prabowo neighbourhood,” said Mr Firdaus, a former reporter. He voted for Mr Joko this time and in 2014. The rest of his family opted for his opponent – again.

“They think Jokowi is using Ma’ruf to get Muslim support,” said Mr Firdaus, using the popular moniker for Mr Joko.

Then there’s Muhammed Thohir, 79, who lives a stone’s throw away from the Jakarta home of Habib Rizieq, the head of the hardline group the Islamic Defenders Front, who is currently in exile in Saudi Arabia.

The area went for Mr Joko in 2014. It picked Anies Baswedan over Mr Basuki for Jakarta governor in 2017, and opted for Mr Joko again on Wednesday.

All this despite a surge in religious sentiment sparked by Mr Basuki’s blasphemy trial. In the end voters here were unfazed with Mr Joko’s close association with Mr Basuki and stuck with him.

Mr Muhammed, who voted for Mr Prabowo last time, rued the lost opportunity to oust Mr Joko.

“I was hoping we would change the president,” Mr Muhammed said.

“There’s a Christian school and there’s many (ethnic) Chinese here,” Mr Muhammed said by way of explanation of Mr Joko’s victory in the neighbourhood.”

But in Tanjung Duren, to the west of the city, toward the airport, ethnic Chinese were steadfast behind Mr Joko, even after he withdrew support for Mr Basuki, a Christian of Chinese descent. Mr Basuki was released from jail in January after serving most his two year sentence for insulting the Koran.

That Mr Ma’ruf testified against Mr Basuki at the blasphemy trial hasn’t sullied Mr Joko’s standing among voters here.

“We hope that Ma’ruf will help calm the more extreme Muslims so that Jokowi can work on infrastructure,” said Pauline Liongosari, a brand manager at a big consumer products conglomerate, who is ethnic Chinese.

Ms Pauline’s husband, Kris Antoni, a 33-year-old games software developer is hoping that the next five years will bring more of the same.

His industry has thrived under Mr Joko, who lifted investor caps on the entertainment industry. It’s a far cry from how things were a decade ago when government officials harassed him and other ethnic Chinese for bribes to process applications for identification documents.

“There’s less corruption,” Mr Kris said.

“Of course I want Jokowi to win. We’ve already seen an improvement.”



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Opinion, Politics

Rohingyas in Voter List: EC staffers, fraud ring behind it

Electoral fraud sees Rohingya on voting list. A nexus of brokers and some dishonest staffers of the Election Commission’s Chattogram office provides forged national identity cards to Rohingyas, an EC investigation team has found. Three members of the syndicate were arrested on Monday. An EC laptop, used in the forgery, was recovered from their possession, EC Deputy Director (NID) Iqbal Hossain, head of the three-member team, told The Daily Star yesterday. The arrestees are Jainal Abedin, 35, office assistant of Double Mooring Election Office under the Chattogram EC office, Bijoy Das, 23, a driver, and his sister Sima Das alias Sumaiya Jahan, 26, said Mohammad Mohsin, officer-in-charge of Kotwali Police Station. Yesterday, Double Mooring Thana Election Officer Pallabi Chakma filed a case against five people, including the three, with the police station under the Digital Security Act, the OC said


By Daily Star
September 18, 2019

Opinion, Politics

President blames China for ‘suppressing Taiwan int’l space’

The Solomon Islands is the latest country to not recognise Taiwan. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) strongly condemned Solomon Islands’ decision to establish diplomatic relations with China in a major statement released on Monday. The president blamed China for using “financial and political pressure to suppress Taiwan’s international space” and called Beijing’s action “a threat,” but also a “brazen challenge and detriment to the international order.” Taiwan’s attitude towards its diplomatic allies has been one of sincere friendship, she said, stressing that Taiwan spares “no effort” and treats allies with “sincerity.” In the face of China’s alleged interference, however, she added that “we will not stand to be threatened, nor will we be subjected to ceaseless demands.” The president also stressed that Taiwan will not engage in “dollar diplomacy” with China


By ANN Members
September 17, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Hong Kong police deploy water cannon, tear gas to disperse radical protesters

More protests erupted this week, the third month of continuous weekend protest. Hong Kong police fired water cannons and volleys of tear gas to break up protesters throwing petrol bombs and bricks near the Legislative Council (LegCo) building and central government offices on Sunday (Sept 15), the latest in weeks of sometimes-violent unrest. One water-cannon truck parked behind water-filled barriers surrounding the government headquarters complex caught fire after being hit by a petrol bomb, but the flames were quickly put out by police. After repeated warnings failed to disperse the protesters, police fired water cannons laced with blue dye as well as volleys of tear gas to break up the demonstrators. In other countries, dye is added to the water to help identify protesters later. Meanwhile, the LegCo Secretariat issued a red alert informing all persons to evacuate the LegCo Complex immediately.


By The Straits Times
September 16, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Iran rejects US claim it was behind Saudi oil strikes, says ready for war

All sides in the Middle East have stepped up their rhetoric in recent days. Iran dismissed accusations by the United States that it was behind attacks on Saudi oil plants that risk disrupting global energy supplies and warned on Sunday that US bases and aircraft carriers in the region were in range of its missiles. Yemen’s Houthi group claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks that knocked out more than half of Saudi oil output or more than 5 per cent of global supply, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the assault was the work of Iran, a Houthi ally. The drone strikes on plants in the heartland of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility, were expected to send oil prices up $5-10 per barrel on Monday as tensions rise in the Middle East. Iran’s President Hass


By Dawn
September 16, 2019

Opinion, Politics

The foreigner who stoked political chaos in Malaysia

For Asia News Network Editor’s Circle by Chong Lip Teck of Sin Chew Daily. Controversial Indian Muslim preacher Zakir Naik is on the wanted list in India due to his extreme religious remarks and alleged involvement in money laundering. Many Muslim countries have denied him entry. But in Malaysia, he is well received by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. Within the coalition, however, there is a split because of him. The ground sentiment is also divided into two, on  racial and religious lines. One side has defended him while the other side asked for his repatriation. As a Muslim preacher, Zakir Naik is popular in the Muslim community. He has his charm. While promoting Islam, he would  downgrade other religions, especially the Hindus and Christians. But, as a guest in Malaysia, he has crossed the red line. If he is merely promoting Islam, no one is against him. But he insults other religions in his sp


By ANN Members
September 16, 2019

Opinion, Politics

PM Abe surprises by appointing Koizumi to 1st Cabinet post

Abe nominates rising political star to cabinet post. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who doubles as Liberal Democratic Party president, is attempting to maintain “stability” by not changing the core members of his administration in the reshuffle of his Cabinet and party executives, while also demonstrating the ability to “challenge” by appointing young and mid-career lawmakers such as Shinjiro Koizumi of the House of Representatives. Abe is apparently looking ahead to the end of his term as party leader in September 2021 by putting the finishing touches on his long period in power. 3rd-youngest postwar minister A mid-career LDP lawmaker was excited Tuesday evening after watching a television report predicting Koizumi’s appointment to the Cabinet for the first time. “It’s the biggest surprise [in the reshuffle],” the lawmaker yelled.


By The Japan News
September 12, 2019