Opinion

Jokowi and democratic political
entrepreneurship

Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama have officially assumed office as the Jakarta governor and deputy governor respectively for the next five years. Through a dynamic election, the majority of Jakartans showed they craved change.

The success story of Jokowi-Ahok, with their young, visionary and low-profile images, signifies the momentum for the rise of democratic political entrepreneurship in Indonesia’s democratic landscape at the local level.

Since 1998, the world has heaped praise on Indonesia’s move toward a democratic political system. Yet, some have also criticized the country’s transformation.

The critics perceive Indonesia as a defective democracy and a product of consolidation between patrimonialism and a trade-off between the authoritarian regime and reform agenda.

As a consequence, Indonesian democracy is seen as a paradox where you can find democratic institutions and rent-seeking behavior at the same time.

Such phenomena then raise an important question that we always try to answer, what is going wrong with Indonesian democracy?

One of the many possible answers to this question is the fact that Indonesia still lacks political entrepreneurship. Political entrepreneurship refers to creative, resourceful and opportunistic leaders whose skillful manipulation of politics somehow results in the creation of a new policy or a new bureaucratic agency, creates a new institution, or transforms an existing one (Sheingate, 2003).

 In other words, political entrepreneurship is the elite’s ability to provide political innovation within society. Such innovation-orientated behavior embraced by political entrepreneurs is similar to entrepreneurship in the economic or business perspective, jargon like “think out of the box” or “create your own market” highlight this innovation.

Successful entrepreneurs are those who are able to dominate by promoting something that has yet to be offered to the market. Entrepreneurship in a business context always leads to challenges to an existing monopoly through innovation with profit as the main target. In the same vein, political entrepreneurship targets “political profits”.

While profits in business may take the form of personal or corporate material rewards, profit in politics stands for a fair allocation of value within society.

In this sense, the conundrum of political entrepreneurship is that “political profit” benefits both elites and the whole society.

The democratization that began in 1998 has established several stable democratic institutions such as a stronger House of Representatives, more transparent government, vibrant civil society and critical mass media in Indonesia.

However, the success story of Indonesia’s structure of democracy has not been followed by its agents’ behavior.

Democracy in Indonesia as a discourse and institution has been misused as a pretext to preserve transactional politics and cartels among the elites, a phenomenon which is predatory to the essence of democracy itself. Deriving from this context, we can now identify the existence of “predatory political entrepreneurs” in the current Indonesian democracy.

The anatomy of predatory political entrepreneurship incorporates creativity, resources and innovation. Creativity is exercised by predatory political entrepreneurs through the ability to be a cunning parasite on the state budget.

The majority of elites are highly creative in sniffing loopholes within the state or local budgets, looking for a window of opportunity for rent-seeking behavior.

Meanwhile, resources attached to predatory political entrepreneurs will support their rent-seeking behavior. In addition, the elites behave as opportunistic leaders in pursuing any innovations through policies, agencies and institutions that are directed at sustaining their corrupt behavior.

Ecologically, the predatory political entrepreneurs live at all levels of the state structure.

Hopes abound that Jokowi and Ahok will strengthen the move to fight predatory political entrepreneurs. Through his participatory style of governance as the mayor of Surakarta, Jokowi has shown that leadership must be able to touch the very basis of society.

He demonstrates the way in which leadership through creativity and resource-maximization may result in the diminishing “political gap” between the elites and their constituents. Thus, people feel they are part of their city and its problem solving.

Meanwhile, Ahok’s vision of a professional leadership was tested during his position as East Belitung regent and House member. In 2007, he won the national anticorruption figure award for his ability to curb corruption within the East Belitung bureaucracy. Of course, his proven commitment to the fight against graft will be a key support to Jokowi’s leadership.

Apart from the potentials of Jokowi-Ahok, we have to worry about the fact that democratic politicalentrepreneurship in the country is less consolidated and vulnerable to temptation to become predatory itself due to mounting peer pressure.

The most dangerous threat then also comes from politically fatalist behavior. As such, there is a presumption that it is impossible to destroy the web of rent-seekers since it will impede political stability and risk the democratization agenda moving backwards.

This has been seen in the fact that many Jakarta leaders have found difficulties in controlling the corrupt bureaucracy.

Finally, we do hope that Jokowi-Ahok will remain consistent in maximizing the benefits of democracy to the people and stand against pressures from the predatory elites.

On the other side, Jakartans must always be critical of any misconduct Jokowi-Ahok may commit in the next five years. Welcome Jokowi-Ahok, enjoy Jakarta.

The writer is a lecturer at the department of political science, Bakrie University, Jakarta

Paper Edition | Page: 7

Post Your Say

Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.