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The Jakarta Post
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Soeharto family’s support could backfire in Jakarta poll

  • Callistasia Anggun Wijaya and Winda A. Charmila

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Mon, March 20, 2017 | 08:34 am
Soeharto family’s support could backfire in Jakarta poll Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Anies Baswedan (center right) and his running mate Sandiaga Uno (center left) answer questions from journalists during a press briefing in Jakarta, on Feb. 15, 2017. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

Support from the family of former president Soeharto, the longest ruler of the country, for the Jakarta gubernatorial ticket of Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno to win the upcoming election could be harmful for the pair, analysts have said.

In late February, Soeharto’s daughter, Titiek Soeharto, declared her support for Anies and Sandiaga, contradicting the official stance of her Golkar Party, which backed incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and his running mate, Djarot Saiful Hidayat.

Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) political analyst Siti Zuhro said that the Cendana family still had a significant number of supporters.

“Titiek Soehato is a lawmaker from Golkar while Tommy has a new political party. They won’t be approached if they don’t have a base of supporters,” she recently said, citing the names of Soeharto’s children who had voiced their support.

Siti said the large numbers who attended the commemoration of the March 11 Indonesian Presidential Executive Order (Supersemar), which Soeharto had used to wrest control from his predecessor, first president Sukarno, showed that the family still had a large following.

During the commemoration, Soeharto’s children, also known as the Cendana family, invited the chief patron of the Gerindra Party, Prabowo Subianto, and the Anies-Sandiaga pair to be honored guests at a mass prayer in the At-Tin Mosque in East Jakarta.

In the event, which was attended by four of Soeharto’s six children — Titiek, Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, Siti Hutami Endang and Hutomo Mandala Putra — the patron of the hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI), Rizieq Shihab, who had helped orchestrate large protests against Ahok, was given the stage to deliver a tausiyah (sermon) to the participants.

Political observer Ray Rangkuti of the Lingkar Madani Foundation said the support might result in more votes for Anies and Sandiaga, but voters from the middle and upper classes could be turned off by the apparent closeness between Anies and Sandiaga and the Cendana family.

The middle and upper classes, likely to be more educated, might be more sensitive to the stigma attached to the New Order, including the rampant corruption, collusion and nepotism within the family, as well as the human rights violations during Soeharto’s reign, he said.

Army general Soeharto was allegedly involved in several human rights abuses, such as the Tanjung Priok Massacre in early 1984, the 1989 Talangsari incident in Lampung, as well as the May 1998 riots between citizens and the military that resulted in many deaths and injuries.

Soeharto ordered a serious of mysterious shootings between 1982 and 1985, known as Petrus, which reportedly killed about 2,000 people across the country, with the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police deemed to have actually carried them out, according to reports by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in 2012.

Even first-time voters who were born after the fall of the New Order in 1998 might be aware of the various human rights violations and examples of corruption done by Soeharto and thus would not be swayed to vote for Anies and Sandiaga, according to State Islamic University (UIN) political analyst Adi Prayitno.

First-time voters made up nearly 200,000 of the 6.8 million registered voters in the first round of the election in February, according to data from the General Elections Commission (KPU). There would be 21,000 more firsttime voters registered in the second round of the election.

“Even though they [first-time voters] don’t know how it was like to live in the Soeharto era, schools must have taught them. Even people in villages know. Jakarta residents are educated,” Adi told The Jakarta Post on Saturday. “If I could suggest, gubernatorial candidate pairs do not need to have ‘romantic’ affiliations with that family. Just work hard on wooing swing voters to get more votes.”

Besides, the support from the Cendana family would not make a huge difference because the political power of the family had waned, he added.

“Symbolically, support from the family is considered influential, but they do not have big political power,” Adi said. Ray echoed Adi’s sentiment. While Titiek was a legislator, her constituency was in Yogyakarta, Ray said. Hutomo, popularly known as Tommy, meanwhile, did not have a strong organization or political party that could contribute votes to the pair, he said.

The family could also no longer rely on the Golkar Party, Soeharto’s political vehicle for decades, since the party officially endorses Ahok and Gatot, Ray said.

Instead of helping Anies and Sandiaga to gain more votes, it is the Cendana family that stands to benefit more from the move, he said.

For instance, the family could use this “partnership” to rejuvenate its popularity and influence among the people by spreading claims about the accomplishments of their father during the New Order.

“If the gubernatorial election tickets are not careful, it is feared that the election could provide momentum to the family to spread their political [power],” Adi said.

Middle class could stay away from Anies if he remains close to Cendana family Even for young voters association with Soeharto brand could negatively impact candidate’s prospects.

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