October 14, 2022
JAKARTA – Days after receiving the NasDem Party’s backing for the 2024 presidential race, outgoing Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan is facing renewed criticism over his handling of the city’s perennial flooding problem, including from the central government and the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
Anies, who has served as Jakarta’s governor since 2017, will leave office on Sunday, and an interim governor will fill the position until a definitive one is elected in 2024 to accomodate a shift in the regional election schedule.
On Friday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo appointed a member of his inner circle – Presidential Secretariat chief Heru Budi Hartono – to the position and has since instructed Heru to prioritize flood mitigation in what some observers have taken as swipe against the outgoing governor.
“Flooding and traffic jams are the two most pressing problems facing Jakarta, and I expect to see [Heru] making significant inroads in handling them,” Jokowi said.
After heavy downpours last week, floods were reported along six major roads and in 80 neighborhood units (RTs) across the capital city, with pictures on social media showing Kemang, South Jakarta, among the hardest hit areas.
Amid the reports, Anies claimed the city’s flooding problem was perceived to be much worse than it actually was.
“Jakarta has around 30,000 RTs and only  were flooded. That’s not even 1 percent,” Anies said on Oct. 5, as quoted by kompas.com.
In response, PDI-P secretary general Hasto Kristiyanto accused Anies of falling short of his duty.
“Politics is not about a 1-5 percent calculation, but about taking on the burden of leading the nation,” Hasto said on Sunday as quoted by kompas.com.
History of politicization
Political researcher Arya Fernandes of the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said political squabbles over the city’s flooding problems were not a new phenomenon.
“Back when Anies was running in 2017, and when Jokowi ran against Fauzi Bowo [in the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial race], flooding was a political issue as well,” Arya told The Jakarta Post.
This was partly because flooding was a universal issue that impacted Jakartans of every socioeconomic class, said Bawono Kumoro of pollster Indikator Politik.
“No matter who’s in office, flooding has always been one of the main issues used to target Jakarta’s governors,” Bawono said.
Now that NasDem had nominated Anies for president and he was preparing to leave office, Bawono said, the moment was perfect for opponents to link Anies to Jakarta’s flooding problems.
“The idea is to create the perception that in his last days as governor, Anies was unable to mitigate flooding and that he is not ready to run for president just yet,” Bawono told the Post.
Most polls name Anies as one of the three leading hopefuls for the 2024 presidential election, along with Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo of the PDI-P and Defense Minister and Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto.
The Democratic Party and the Prosperous of Justice Party (PKS), the two remaining opposition parties in the House of Representatives, are openly considering backing Anies for president as well.
On Monday, Hasto defended his criticism of Anies, which had drawn an irritated response from senior NasDem politician Willy Aditya.
Hasto highlighted the differences in how Anies and Jokowi had handled flooding during their respective tenures as Jakarta governor, tempo.co reported. While Jokowi conducted several river “normalization” projects that involved the installation of concrete pilings along waterways, Anies had opted for a more nature-based approach, focusing on absorbing rainwater through infiltration wells, small reservoirs and revitalized city parks.
Anies was not immediately available for comment.
While Anies initially drew criticism for not continuing the river normalization projects of his predecessor, data from the Jakarta government shows that the region has been getting better at dealing with flooding. In 2020, after Jakarta endured massive floods when 377 millimeters of rain fell in a 24-hour period starting on New Year’s Eve, the highest daily rainfall in over a decade, water levels in 95 percent of the flooded areas receded in under 96 hours, according to Kompas.
In comparison, it took 168 hours for water levels to recede in 95 percent of flooded areas after 277 mm of rain fell in 2015, when Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was governor.
Incoming interim Jakarta governor Heru has said he is planning to continue Anies’ infiltration well program.
“These infiltration wells are not a bad idea, but we still have to look at the volumes and where they’re placed,” Heru said, as quoted by tempo.co.