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July the 11th has passed. Jakarta’s gubernatorial election attracted so much attention beyond the reaches of its demography and geography that many of us did not even realize that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU’s de facto numero uno, was in town last week, or that Indonesia was the only Southeast Asian country she made time to visit on her tour.
I genuinely hope that if you were eligible to vote, you exercised that democratic right. I did. And if you read my last column, you could have guessed which candidates I would vote for. The independent ticket of Faisal Basri and Biem Benyamin did not make it to the second round, yet they managed to secure a higher portion of the vote than the other independent ticket and the candidate supported by dozens of political parties, including the most oiled machine of them all — Golkar. If that is not a slap in the face of political parties, I do not know what is.
There have been many kneejerk reactions as well as careful early assessments of the results. Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) cadres seemed to have voted along party lines. The incessant, borderline improper, flood of messages broadcast via SMS, BlackBerry Messages, and other media have shown that some candidates were far from shy about working the native, ethnic, or religion angles — some of which might have worked. I received some of those messages myself, much to my amusement. My mother, a native of Surakarta who has lived in Jakarta for more than 30 years, was criticized by many of her peers for not voting for Jokowi, much to her
irritation. Friends of mine from ethnic Chinese backgrounds who refused to vote along ethnic lines, and similarly, friends from devout Muslim families who voted for a non-Muslim candidate experienced the same criticism.
However small the impact these incidents might have had on the actual voting results should not make it any less sad that they occurred at all. It is even sadder that the sentiments seem to be carrying into the second round, still two months in the future. Personally, it sent me right back to my second semester in college, when my decision to join the student body’s campaign team literally called “The Independents”, instead of siding with “The Greens” faction (driven by the Muslim students association), garnered icy stares and blatant criticism based on the fact that my father hailed from Indonesia’s so-called Veranda of Mecca. Some friends, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, found it hard to fathom why I believed that a student body in a state-run, secular university should not logically be ruled by one demography group. I guess my independent streak stretches back to even my student days.
Certainly, beyond base motives, there must have been many Jakartans who voted for a change. I have read studies suggesting city dwellers, of any income bracket, can be very practical in electing their leaders and do not care much for issues like human rights violations or completion of public works projects, however critical both may be in the long run. Jakarta’s traffic and floods have made it so unbearable in recent years that even the deeply pious have taken to swearing during rush hour. “The Expert” incumbent’s claim only added insult to the five-year injury, as he pushed voters to support candidates with city management track records, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the melting pot city-province of 13 million residents, where the hoodlums are lumped into several different native groups, is a far cry from a town of 1 million relatively homogenous souls.
Yet, the people have spoken, and I always respect voters who actively demand their elected leader to fulfill campaign promises more than the ones who vocally criticize an administration and don’t deign to participate in elections. Needless to say, thanks to that principle, I am now left with an ugly “tri-lemma” on what to do come Sept. 20 because not only do I have a hard time bringing myself to vote for either of the two tickets in the second round, but I’m also not keen on being a golput (blank ballot) voter either. Ramadhan could not have come at a more appropriate time. Soul-searching meditation may be just what I need.
Hence, the new dawn is not breaking yet for Jakartans. With the exception of the Faisal-Biem ticket — who in a true spirit of independence, trusts their voters to choose for themselves in the second round — others have immediately signaled the formation of possible coalitions and pledged votes. Jakartans will be faced with a choice. Who we elect as the new leader will not only govern the province, but it will also reflect who we are as society.
So, while chewing on the simalakama fruit that suddenly no longer feels so mythical, I plead to fellow Jakartans — think, and choose wisely. Which direction and path do we want the city and ourselves to set out on for the next five years?
Lynda Ibrahim is a Jakarta-based writer and consultant, with a penchant for purple, pussycats and pop culture.