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Q&A: Is West Java the frontline for generals?

  • Devina Heriyanto
    Devina Heriyanto

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, January 9, 2018 | 08:05 pm
Q&A:  Is West Java the frontline for generals? Candidates for 2018 regional elections from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Indonesia has finally entered the year of highly contested regional elections that are now even more crucial with a presidential election looming ahead. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

Indonesia has finally entered the year of highly contested regional elections that are now even more crucial with a presidential election looming ahead.

One of the most talked-about regions in the upcoming race is West Java, a home to approximately 46.71 million people, the most populated province in Indonesia.

Even more interesting are the candidates running for West Java governor and vice governor, as they include a former actor and a social-media savvy mayor, as well as police and military generals.

The four pairs who have already registered their candidacy are Ridwan Kamil and Uu Ruzhanul Ulum, Sudrajat and Ahmad Syaikhu, Deddy Mizwar and Dedi Mulyadi, and Tubagus Hasanuddin and Anton Charliyan.

Three candidates — Sudrajat, Tubagus and Anton — are former generals from the Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police.

Who are these hopefuls? How will this star-studded election influence the 2019 presidential election?

Who are the hopefuls?

Ridwan Kamil and Uu Ruzhanul Ulum

Ridwan is mayor of the West Java capital, Bandung, who has garnered considerable support from young voters through his active use of social media.

Uu is a two-term Tasikmalaya regent, whose Gerbang Desa (Village Gate) program to improve the standard of life in the region’s rural areas was considered a success. Uu was the sole candidate in the 2015 Tasikmalaya election, running against a blank box and receiving 67 percent of votes.

The pair is backed by the Hanura Party, the United Development Party (PPP), the Nasdem Party and the National Awakening Party (PKB).

Sudrajat and Ahmad Syaikhu

Sudrajat is a retired two-star general with extensive experience in defense, intelligence and diplomacy as a defense attaché and ambassador to China. The Harvard graduate was born in Sumedang regency, West Java, making him a “true Sundanese.” He has never held a political post before.

Ahmad is the deputy mayor of Bekasi, West Java, and a former West Java councillor. He founded several Islamic foundations and has released a religious music album.

The pair is backed by Gerindra, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and possibly the National Mandate Party (PAN).

Deddy Mizwar and Dedi Mulyadi

Actor Deddy Mizwar is no stranger to West Java as he is the current deputy governor to Ahmad Heryawan.

Dedi Mulyadi is two-term Purwakarta regent and Golkar’s West Java chapter chairman. The party previously backed Ridwan before withdrawing its support in mid-December. As a regent, Dedi has introduced several controversial policies.

They are backed by the Democratic Party and Golkar.

Tubagus Hasanuddin and Anton Charliyan

Tubagus is a two-star general and member of the House of Representatives. He served as the military secretary to former presidents Megawati Soekarnoputri and Susilo “SBY” Bambang Yudhoyono.

Anton is a two-star police general who previously headed the West Java police before being transferred to another post after accepting his candidacy.

The pair is backed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Why does it matter that some of the candidates are generals?

Indonesian politics has never truly separated from its military, particularly during the New Order era. Even after the political reform in 1998, TNI generals still have somewhat of a grip over the country.

In Indonesia’s first direct presidential election in 2004, former general SBY won against Megawati, and again in 2009. In 2014, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo found a stern rival in Prabowo Subianto, a former lieutenant general of the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) and the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), who promised a New Order-esque strongman figure.

Jokowi won by a 6.3 percentage point, a narrow gap that almost drove Indonesia back under military rule.

Jokowi is expected to face Prabowo again at the 2019 presidential election.

How significant is West Java for the 2019 presidential election?

West Java was where Jokowi struggled during the 2014 presidential election and where he lost to Prabowo, who garnered 59.78 percent of the vote.

A survey conducted by Jakarta-based pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) in late 2017 shows that Jokowi is gaining ground in West Java, with 25.7 percent of 820 respondents saying they would vote for Jokowi, compared to 22 percent for Prabowo.

It is worth noting that electability surveys can be volatile, especially those with such a thin margin. The 2018 regional elections are a time for political parties and hopeful presidential candidates to consolidate their masses.

Are there other generals contesting the regional elections?

Yes. In North Sumatra, a coalition comprising the Gerindra Party, Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) have agreed to back the candidacy of Kostrad chief Lt. Gen. Edy Rahmayadi.

Before withdrawing from the race, North Sumatra Police chief Insp. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw was Golkar’s last best hope to challenge the powerful incumbent Lukas Enembe in Papua.

Brig. Gen. Edy Nasution is the first candidate to register in Riau, tempo.co reports. Insp. Gen. Safaruddin has also been mandated by the PDI-P to join race in East Kalimantan, where he was assigned as police chief, according to kompas.com.

Then, there is also Manggarai Police precinct chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Marselis Sarimin in East Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), and Insp. Gen. Murad Ismail in Maluku.

Aside from political calculations for the 2019 presidential election, the generals’ candidacies also show the political parties’ failure to train political candidates. A significant number of candidates are neither part of a political party nor have a background in the TNI or National Police.

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