Disenchanted with politics-as-usual, Indonesians pine for change

Khabar Southeast Asia

Disenchanted with politics-as-usual, Indonesians pine for change

The face of politics is changing, thanks to a stronger role for the media – and a new crop of candidates who know how to harness it.

With one year to go before the 2014 presidential election, Indonesians appear to be in the mood for change. Polls show a relative newcomer – Jakarta governor Joko Widodo (nicknamed Jokowi) – ahead of other potential candidates, including several well-established figures.

The results reflect an ongoing trend in Indonesian politics, analysts say. The traditional party machinery is losing its potency as a new generation of media-savvy politicians is better able to harness public opinion.

Citizens, meanwhile, are increasingly distrustful of political elites and determined to elect politicians who will remain close to their interests.

In its latest opinion survey, Pusat Data Bersatu (PDB) polled 1,200 respondents from 30 provinces. Jokowi garnered 21.2% support, the largest percentage for all the potential candidates. Behind him were several political veterans — former vice president Jusuf Kalla, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, Great Indonesian Movement (Gerindra) Party figure Prabowo Subianto, and Golkar Party Chairman Abu Rizal Bakrie, among others.

Didik J. Rachbini, a political expert at PDB, said the results showed a clear trend.

“Citizens want a new figure for the 2014 presidential election, and it appears that Jokowi is that figure,” Didik told Khabar Southeast Asia.

However, he added, the rising political star will first need to demonstrate a strong performance in his current job, including by taking charge of the flooding situation in Jakarta.

Media appeal becoming crucial

Burhanuddin Muhtadi, a political analyst with the Indonesian Survey Institute (Lembaga Survey Indonesia/LSI), agreed that the electorate wants someone new.

“Citizens are looking for a figure who is firm, has no distance from the citizens, [and is] unpretentious,” he told reporters.

Jokowi’s popularity has swelled since he took over the city governorship, a role which brings frequent media appearances, Burhanuddin said.

Moreover, he added, the governor has received positive coverage of his education and health care initiatives, the Kartu Jakarta Pintar (Jakarta Education Card/KJP) and Kartu Jakarta Sehat (Jakarta Health Card/KJS).

The KJP provides students with as much as Rp 240,000 ($25) per month for education-related expenses such as books, uniforms, and transportation. Bank DKI refills the card every month with provincial government funds. Similarly, the KJS provides free health care access, especially for those in need.

Although previous governors ran similar initiatives, Jokowi has proven particularly effective at making citizens aware of them, Burhanuddin said.

“He knows how to maintain public optimism,” he said.

Jokowi is not the first politician in this mold, the analyst said. Indonesia’s current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, demonstrated a similar appeal during his campaign eight years ago, relying more on a strong media presence than on the traditional workings of party machinery.

“Back in 2004, President Susilo became a media darling with his personality and intellect. He is also very friendly with the media,” he added. In general, he added, “political parties are no longer able to claim that they are the only funnels to represent the public’s preference”.

Disenchantment grows with politics-as-usual

Muhammad Yusuf, an 18-year-old Pemalang resident, told Khabar he wants a new president who remains close to the people. “I think we need a smart figure and humble, just like Governor Jokowi,” Muhammad said.

Hilary Desuari, a 25 year-old Yogyakarta resident, told Khabar, “I find it difficult to trust the political elite.” Jokowi, she said, may be a viable candidate “because he does real work and solves many problems.”

Willy Bordus Tatag Hastungkoro, a 24 year-old Jakarta resident who originally hails from Central Java, said Indonesia needs a president who has a vision for the country, and not just for a political party.

“I think that we need a figure with a good mindset to protect and develop the public’s interests mandated by Pancasila, our guiding principles,” he said.

Indonesians lament celebrity drug use

Khabar Southeast Asia

Indonesians lament celebrity drug use

Following a high-profile-drug bust, parents and children’s advocates demand entertainers set a better example for the nation’s youth.

In the wake of the latest celebrity drug arrest, Indonesians are concerned such individuals are undermining the country’s effort to become drug-free.

“We are worrying with the increasing number of drug users in our society,” said Agus Hendrawan, an officer at the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), when asked about the late January arrest of popular television presenter and actor Raffi Ahmad.

“Many youths admit that their interest to use drugs is influenced by the environment, including public figure such as celebrities,” he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Even though law enforcement on drug use is improving, the government is still facing big challenges, he said. According to a BNN survey conducted at the end of 2011, there are 3.8 million to 4.2 million illicit drug users in Indonesia, many of them young professionals.

Drug bust grabs headlines

Authorities arrested 17 people in a raid early January 27th on Raffi’s South Jakarta home and seized 14 ecstasy pills and two marijuana joints. Reports of the drug bust went viral, as several well-known people were involved.

Nine people were found innocent and released in following days, including actor Irwansyah, 27, and his actress wife, Zaskia Sungkar, 22, as well as the National Mandate Party’s (PAN) Wanda Hamidah, a 34-year-old member of the Jakarta Legislative Council.

One person was charged for not reporting drug use, while six others were sent to rehabilitation and face up to four years in prison if convicted under Indonesia’s 2009 anti-narcotics law.

Five of those arrested tested positive for drugs in initial urine tests on January 27th. But Sumirat Dwiyanto, a BNN spokesman, told reporters that two people who originally tested negative were later found to have cathinone in their system.

Cathinone, a drug related to the stimulant khat, found in Arab and East African countries, is relatively new in Indonesia.

Raffi, 25, faces multiple charges and up to 12 years in prison if convicted. Once the presenter on television’s most popular music program, Dahsyat, he is now jailed in a BNN detention facility in East Jakarta, awaiting further investigation and a court trial.

Banned from television?

Many celebrities in Indonesia — and abroad — have faced legal problems over drug use. Senior Indonesian rocker Ahmad Albar was convicted of drug use and sent to jail for several years after his arrest in 2007.

Fahria Ade, an Indonesian actress who was arrested for possession of shabu (crystal meth) in 2010, told reporters it is very common to use drugs at filming locations.

“I used to be asked to use drugs by the film director so I would not be tired and could act maximally,” Ade said, according to entertainment news site Kapanlagi.com.

Celebrity drug use has a potentially negative impact on children, according to the Indonesian Commission on Child Protection (KPAI).

“Celebrities are idolized by children. We’re calling on celebrities to adopt a healthy lifestyle without narcotics. We’re even encouraging them to become ambassadors in the fight against drugs,” M. Ihsan, the head of KPAI’s child protection task force, told reporters following the arrests.

Nocky Chandra, a 25 year-old university student from Yogyakarta, agrees.

“Celebrities, who actually can be a role model for young people, should really watch their behaviour and lifestyle, because everybody is watching them,” Nocky said.

Ayu Sekarsari, 36, the mother of a 9-year-old boy, thinks celebrities convicted of drug use should be banned from television.

“My son often watches ‘Dahsyat’,” she said. “He often found that Raffi is a cool young man.”

“As a parent, I always tell my son the danger of drugs. I just don’t want my son to think that it is also cool to consume drugs… they are relatively easily influenced by their idols,” she added.

“Banning celebrities who are convicted of drug use is one way to prevent children from using drugs. Unless they have been going to rehabilitation and are willing to fight against narcotics openly through mass media,” Ayu told Khabar