Political victory for Megawati
Makmur Keliat ; A lecturer at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences,
University of Indonesia
JAKARTA POST, 15 Maret 2014
Megawati Soekarnoputri, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairperson, has nominated Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to contest the presidential election scheduled in July.
What is Megawati’s incentive for choosing Jokowi? The question deserves special attention for two reasons. First, the PDI-P is one of the major political parties in Indonesia and the general opinion is that the party is regaining its former glory, comparable to the massive support it enjoyed in 1999. Second, Megawati’s decision seems to have been against the general attitude of the current political culture, because the decision was not made on the basis of the prevailing pragmatic political culture afflicting the majority of political party leaders across the country.
The public discussions and views regarding Megawati, maintain that she is distinct from other leaders of political parties as far as political ambition is concerned, which is to become the country’s chief executive.
Perception is that this is the political norm, reflecting the canon of political realism. It has become an inherent trait that permeates through all political leaders’ personalities in Indonesia. Aburizal Bakrie of the Golkar Party and Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra Party are two prime examples of this.
Accordingly, the idea of nominating Jokowi as a presidential candidate was mooted not on the basis of political reality. It was strongly believed that the idea would not be of any value in the eyes of Megawati. On the basis of this logical framework, as the argument goes, the scenario that Megawati would have preferred was that she would put herself forward as the presidential candidate with Jokowi as her running mate.
Megawati’s decision, therefore, is a spectacular breakthrough. Those who believe that the nature of Indonesian politics is mainly shaped by pragmatism and monetary considerations are certainly disappointed by the decision. Indeed, had Megawati intended to realize her political ambition, she would have announced her candidacy long before.
Moreover, Megawati has a strong grip on the party. She would have easily and legitimately been able to nominate herself as the presidential candidate, as she was given the mandate to do so as a result of the third congress of the PDI-P held in Bali four years ago. This is where observers have got it wrong in attempts to pinpoint and assess the position of Megawati in Indonesian politics.
Some still argue that Jokowi’s electability rating, which has so far been the highest according to numerous surveys compared to other candidates, is the main reason that Megawati did not to select herself. But this view seems to be based on shallow arguments, following the logic of political pragmatism.
Indeed had Megawati relied on the results of the political survey, she would have announced Jokowi’s candidacy months ago. Moreover, in light of Megawati’s undisputed commitment to the importance of ideology, it is highly unlikely to expect that she would allow Indonesian politics to be dictated by assessments made by political surveys.
It is possible that Megawati is attempting to cultivate and institutionalize a new political culture in Indonesia through Jokowi’s nomination. She may have a noble belief that politics should not be merely understood in terms of “power over” meaning and how to exert control over others. Of equal importance, politics has also been conceptualized in terms of “power with”, specifically meaning moving forward hand in hand with the people on the basis of common interests and objectives.
This is certainly a gigantic task because old political culture cannot be changed overnight and because it requires self-sacrifice. In this regard a test awaits PDI-P. Since Jokowi is still serving as Jakarta Governor his candidacy may provoke criticism. PDI-P’s opponents could use against him, and claim that he is not a man of his word. Jokowi has been accused of making promises while campaigning for Jakarta governor that he has failed to keep.
Smear campaigns against Jokowi will likely increase, and the way in which PDI-P handles this will be crucial toward his election chances. The party’s responses do not need to be offensive or vindictive. The concept of “power over” can be promoted effectively if there is solid internal cohesion within the PDI-P itself. It is a must for the party not to be divided by those guided by political pragmatism since potential for divisive forces are obvious and cannot be neglected.
No doubt Jokowi is a valuable member of the PDI-P. He has booked remarkable achievements during both his tenure as Surakarta mayor and in his current position. In addition to Jokowi, the party under the leadership of Megawati actually has given birth to numerous young local leaders such as Ganjar Pranowo who is now the governor of Central Java, Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini and Puan Maharani, Megawati’s daughter who worked tirelessly to help Ganjar win the regional election last year.
There is a risk that Jokowi’s nomination will cause envy and perhaps jealousy among other promising young politicians. Furthermore, PDI-P has never engaged Jokowi directly in managing the party at the national level. It remains problematic and a subject of speculation whether Jokowi has a strong foothold within the party.
Therefore, Jokowi’s candidacy could sow the seeds of friction, not only among young politicians within the party, but might be opposed silently by those who have long worked for the party. The fact that Jokowi is part of Megawati’s family and is not “related by blood” to Sukarno, will in turn bring new problems. Extraordinary efforts need to be done to persuade those who have long been strong supporters of Sukarno’s family either within or outside the party.
The entire political rank and file of the PDI-P needs to take up the moral principles of politics that Megawati has tried to cultivate: sacrificing self-interest for greater common interest and bringing ideology back to Indonesia’s political stage. This is the clear signal that Megawati has intended to convey to the nation. Megawati has certainly won the election on a moral level, long before the voting has begun. ●