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Jakarta Post

Who will win the city budget controversy?

  • Mediaa Wahyudi Askar and Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat

    The Jakarta Post

Manchester   /   Wed, March 4, 2015   /  07:22 am

It has been one year since then governor of Jakarta Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo decided to leave office, clearing the way for him to assume his role as Indonesia'€™s seventh president.

Many city residents agreed with Jokowi'€™s decision while others criticized him for abandoning his responsibilities as the capital'€™s elected governor.

However, the people had no other options but to accept, until eventually Jokowi was elected president and was replaced by his deputy Basuki '€œAhok'€ Tjahaja Purnama.

Today the people of Jakarta appear to once again have to accept the fact that they may lose their governor after what many see as an attempt by city councilors to remove Ahok from office, following his public statements deemed insulting to the Legislative Council on alleged markups in the draft of Jakarta'€™s 2015 city budget.

Despite the ongoing controversy, one thing that must be acknowledged by the people is that Jakarta has lost its momentum for development.

Instead of solving the problems of flooding, the halted construction of the monorail, as well as the severe traffic congestion that caused Jakarta to become the world'€™s most congested city, the elites and officials are wrapped-up with legal issues, to debase and degrade one another.

In addition, the relationship between the legislative and executive bodies, which should be the foundation for the city'€™s development, has largely failed.

Even though it may be too early to make a judgment, there seems to have been no significant results made by Ahok'€™s government.

This may be because the political elites are preoccupied with a conflict of interests between Ahok and the Legislative Council.

It would have been easy for Ahok to gain public support over his policies if they were supported by most of the city councilors.

On the other hand, the legislators would not be able to function properly without contributions from the Jakartan government.

The main victims of the feud between Ahok and the legislators are none other than the people of Jakarta.

We understand that there are people who support Ahok'€™s decision to report the budget markup controversy to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), indicated by the #SaveAhok hashtag, which has been spreading on Twitter in the past week.

But if Ahok could win the case would this improve the political atmosphere and the development of Jakarta?

Of course not. Whether Ahok wins the case will not mean anything. In fact, this will certainly lead to the worsening of the relationship between the executive and legislative branches.

In the case of the alleged budget markup, Ahok may have the courage to say that he would take steps alone in fighting the corruption by confronting the councilors publicly.

But this is not the ideal type of a leader in a democratic country, which emphasizes balance between the executive and legislative branch. Rather, Ahok'€™s move seems to be a dangerous step, which could threaten his position as a governor.

There were alternative steps that could have been taken by Ahok to avoid the feud between his government and the council. He could have halted his decision to report the budget markup case to the KPK and tried to discuss the issue with the councilors.

In addition, Ahok could have defended his position by holding a formal meeting with the council.

These may not be interesting steps for the combative Ahok. They also could not guarantee that the situation would get better.

But if these steps were taken, Ahok would have at least fulfilled his role as a governor trying to overcome and to prevent the problem, and not as a leader looking for a problem.

But establishing communication with the legislative council was not considered by Ahok. And now the situation is getting tangled and a lawsuit has been filed.

The people of Jakarta can only watch. No matter who wins, the residents of Jakarta will bear the greatest burden.


If Ahok could win the case would this improve the political atmosphere and the development of Jakarta?


The writers are postgraduate students at the University of Manchester in the UK.

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