Jakarta Election: Can PKS reclaim past glory with Hidayat?
With its former chairman Hidayat Nur Wahid as its gubernatorial candidate, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) is looking to reclaim its past glory in the capital.
The Islamic-based PKS, currently the second-largest party in the City Council with 18 seats, is known as having a strong political foothold in Jakarta. It used to be the most powerful political party in the city of around 10 million people, garnering support from 23 percent of the votes in the 2004 legislative elections, before losing the council’s majority to the Democratic Party in 2009.
In the last Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2007, the party turned heads of Indonesian political observers as the PKS-backed pair of Adang Daradjatun-Dani Anwar went close in winning the election, earning 42.13 percent of total votes compared to the 57.8 percent collected by the pair of Fauzi Bowo-Prijanto, who was backed by a coalition of major political parties.
The close margin of votes between the two tickets was unexpected, with various surveys at that time predicting that the Adang-Dani pair would only get around 20 percent of the votes. The Adang-Dani pair was supported by the PKS only, while the Fauzi-Prijanto pair was supported by the coalition of 20 parties.
This year, observers have warned that Hidayat, who was nominated by the PKS as a Jakarta gubernatorial hopeful with economist Didik Rachbini as his running mate, may help the party reclaim its glory.
The nomination of Hidayat is believed to strengthen the party’s constituents, as the charismatic 52-year-old is enormously respected by PKS supporters due to his astounding achievement of making the PKS as the capital’s strongest party in 2004.
Some candidates have already expressed their anxiety that Hidayat, a former speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), may outperform predictions from various pollsters and other survey organizations that refer to him as an underdog with slim chance to win the election. “Of all our competitors, Pak Hidayat is the one whom we are most afraid of,” said Nova Riyanti Yusuf, Fauzi Bowo’s media relations head.
“It is because the political engine of the PKS is synonymous with a diesel engine: it is usually slow at the beginning, but will rev boisterously in the dying seconds prior to the election day when the engine has already heated up.”
However, Hidayat also faces a daunting challenge. His gubernatorial bid, for example, came at the moment when public support for Islamic parties, such as the PKS, is at the lowest. Overall support for Islamic parties is currently at 15.7 percent, down from 29.14 percent during the 2009 election and 38.39 percent during the 2004 election, according to a survey released by the National Survey Institute (LSN) on June 26.
“The Indonesian public see Islamic parties as lacking breakthroughs compared to nationalist parties. The declining popularity [of Islamic parties] definitely affects Hidayat’s chances in his Jakarta governor bid, as today’s PKS is actually not as strong as the PKS in the past,” said political observer Burhanuddin Muhtadi, who recently published a book on the PKS titled The PKS Dilemma.
He added that the strongest candidate to beat incumbent Fauzi was not the PKS-backed Hidayat, but Surakarta Mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who has been nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).
Another challenge faced by Hidayat is the fact that his nomination came at the cost of Triwisaksana, a City Council deputy speaker who had been suggested by the PKS several times as its gubernatorial candidate prior to Hidayat’s nomination.
The surprise omission of Triwisaksana, known among his close confidantes as “Bang Sani”, from the race for Jakarta’s top posts, is believed to have divided the PKS, with Hidayat being predicted as unlikely to earn support from Triwisaksana’s crestfallen supporters. (sat)
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