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Jakarta Post

Youth-backed movements challenge political parties

  • Safrin La Batu

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, May 31, 2016   /  08:45 am
Youth-backed movements challenge political parties A visitor fills out a form to support Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s run for another term at the Teman Ahok Fair (Friends of Ahok Fair) in Pancoran, South Jakarta, on Sunday. Supporters must fill out a form and enclose a photocopy of their identity card to support Ahok’s candidacy in the 2017 elections. The main aim of the fair was to raise Rp 1.4 billion for election funds. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Politics is generally considered a serious business, and political movements in this country are traditionally organized by party elites.      

 But in Jakarta, young people, fed up with political transactions among elites, have decided to take part in a political movement.

Thousands of people, mostly youths, attended a two-day event called the Teman Ahok Fair held at the Gudang Sarinah building in Pancoran, South Jakarta, which wrapped up on Sunday.

Enthusiasm could be seen in the faces of the youths although they had to pay between Rp 25,000 and Rp 35,000 for a ticket to take part in the event organized by Teman Ahok (Friends of Ahok), a group that supports Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in his attempt to run as an independent candidate in next year’s gubernatorial election.

Various presentations and shows were held during the fair, including performances by popular acts like Project Pop, Sore and Mocca.

“We believe this kind of movement is needed in the city. This is our style of bringing about change,” Teman Ahok spokesperson Amalia Ayuningtyas told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The group has not announced the number of visitors at the event or how much money was raised for the incumbent’s campaign.

Teman Ahok, founded in June last year, has been successful in its attempt to collect identity card photocopies from Jakarta residents who support his independent campaign. To run without party backing, a candidate in Jakarta needs to secure at least 532,000 ID copies, according to election regulations. The group has set itself a target of one million ID cards, and it already had more than 900,000 as of Monday.

Aside from generating popular support for its governor of choice, the group is also raising funds to support Ahok’s campaign. It sells merchandise, such as pins and Tshirts bearing the picture of Ahok, and organizes various events. So far, the group claims to have raised Rp 797.37 million.

The involvement of young people in political movements was a sign that Indonesia’s democracy was moving in the right direction, and that trend needed to be maintained in the future, said Paramadina University political analyst Hendri Satrio.

“This is good for our politics. Such a movement emerges because young people want to see change in this country,” Hendri said.

“The movement is a positive result of the freedom of the press.”

There are no statistics to show how far the young people’s movement has influenced voters so far. But the movement has become so organized that political parties, including the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) are beginning to feel threatened, prompting them to join forces and rally behind one candidate in a bid to stop Ahok in the election.

The parties’ attempt to unite reflects their common fear of the rising popularity of independent candidates and the weakening power of parties, or deparpolisasi.

Teman Ahok is not the first movement by young people in Jakarta. A popular campaign driven largely by young people also supported current President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, with his then-running mate Ahok, in Jakarta’s 2012 gubernatorial election.

Jokowi, the mayor of Surakarta in Central Java at the time, was considered a humble, down-to-earth figure who kept close to ordinary people despite his political ascent and became popular for impromptu visits to local communities to hear people’s complaints. In a demonstration of their support, many young people started to wear red plaid shirts with their sleeves rolled up, a style popularized by Jokowi and Ahok.

The Jokowi-Ahok duo, although supported by young people, ran with the endorsement of the PDI-P and the Gerindra Party in 2012.

A similar movement to that of Teman Ahok also supported Faisal Basri and Biem Benyamin, who ran as independent candidates in 2012. While the support for the duo was not as massive as that generated by Teman Ahok, it was a grassroots movement that included many young people and mobilized political support outside the established party system.