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Why West Java election matters to Jokowi, Prabowo

  • Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Arya Dipa
    Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Arya Dipa

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta/Bandung | Wed, June 27, 2018 | 07:58 am
Why West Java election matters to Jokowi, Prabowo Gearing up: (From left to right) West Java governor and deputy governor candidates Ridwan Kamil-Uu Ruzhanul Ulum, TB Hasanuddin-Anton Charliyan, Sudrajat-Ahmad Syaikhu, and Deddy Mizwar-Dedi Mulyadi attend the third candidate debate at University of Indonesia (UI) Hall in Depok, West Java, on May 14. (Antara/Indrianto Eko Suwarso)

Many have noted the political significance of West Java, the nation’s most populated province, which shares a border with the capital city of Jakarta.

In the words of West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan: “If you win the election in West Java, you’ll win the presidential election.”

That is why the upcoming gubernatorial election in the province has caught the attention of many people, including the presidential hopefuls.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Gerindra Party leader Prabowo Subianto have a stake in the June 27 election, with one candidate—Sudrajat—reportedly being chosen personally by Prabowo to run against the other three candidates, who are backed by parties within the pro-government coalition.

Below is what you need to know about the West Java election.

A religiously conservative province

West Java is home to about 43 million people or 18.4 percent of the national population, according to the 2010 Population Census by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).

Three of the five cities sharing borders with Jakarta—Bekasi, Depok and Bogor—are located in the province, from which millions of commuters drive to the capital on weekdays.

The province is widely known as a religiously conservative region. It is where most of the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) supporters are. Nevertheless, the region is now controlled by Jokowi’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Prabowo’s Gerindra Party.

Observers have expressed concerns that identity politics will be played out in the lead-up to the regional election, but that bleak outlook, while not entirely groundless, has not proven right so far.  

The candidates and their backers

There are four pairs of candidates in the West Java election: The duos of Ridwan Kamil and Uu Ruzhanul Ulum as well as Deddy Mizwar and Dedi Mulyadi, according to the latest polls, rank far above the two other tickets: Sudrajat and Ahmad Syaikhu as well as TB. Hasanuddin and Anton Charliyan.

Bandung Mayor Ridwan is widely popular on social media and therefore among the younger voters. His running mate, Uu, is a former Tasikmalaya regent, who is also known as a cleric.

They are endorsed by two Muslim-based parties, the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the United Development Party (PPP), and two nationalist parties, the NasDem Party and the Hanura Party.

Deddy is the deputy governor of West Java and also an award-winning actor widely known for his legendary role as General Nagabonar. Dedi, his running mate, is currently the regent of Purwakarta.

Sudrajat is a former military general and former ambassador to China. He is running with PKS politician and Bekasi deputy mayor Syaikhu. The pair is backed by Gerindra, the PKS and the National Mandate Party (PAN) and has associated its campaign with Prabowo’s presidential bid to gain the backing of Prabowo’s supporters in the province.

The PDI-P, which has the highest number of seats at the regional legislative council, decided to go it alone in the election by endorsing former military general Hasanuddin and former West Java Police chief Anton Charliyan.

Close race between two pro-Jokowi candidates?

Based on the latest survey results, the prospects are not good for Prabowo and the parties that support him and his candidate, Sudrajat, in West Java.

A survey conducted by the Kompas newspaper in May found that the Ridwan-Uu pair is the most popular, with 40.4 percent of the respondents saying they would vote for the pair in the election, followed by the Deddy-Dedi pairing with 39.1 percent, the Sudrajat-Syaikhu pair with 11.4 percent and the Hasanuddin-Anton duo with 3 percent.

It is safe to say that the West Java election is a race between Ridwan and Deddy, both of whom are supported by parties that support Jokowi.

Ridwan is popular in regencies located in what the locals call the East Priangan and West Priangan areas. Deddy, meanwhile, has secured the support of voters in northern part of West Java, such as Karawang, Purwakarta, Cirebon and three Jakarta satellite cities: Bogor, Bekasi and Depok.

Hendri Satrio of Jakarta’s Paramadina University said that, from the perspective of national politics, the West Java election is going to be a battle between the Prabowo camp and the Jokowi camp.

Jokowi, he said, had the upper hand so far, now that he has three friendly candidates in the province, including Ridwan and Deddy.

“Jokowi has learned from the loss of [former Jakarta governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama] during the Jakarta election,” he said.

The Sudrajat-Syaikhu campaign is unfazed by the survey results, saying that voters, not pollsters, will decide the winner of the election.

Jokowi’s win, but perhaps not the PDI-P’s

While the PDI-P remains the biggest party in West Java, only a handful of people in the province are rooting for its candidate pair of Hasanuddin and Anton.

Most voters in West Java look to figures and not parties, according to Bandung’s Padjadjaran University political analyst Idil Akbar.

“The PDI-P and Gerindra have chosen the wrong candidates. The figures they are endorsing are not popular,” Idil said.

Hendri said Hasanuddin could have performed better if the PDI-P had announced his candidacy much earlier. “The figures entered the race too late,” Hendri said.

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