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Jakarta Post

Jakarta's new No. 2: Boon or bane for Anies?

  • Sausan Atika

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, April 6, 2020   /   06:30 pm
Jakarta's new No. 2: Boon or bane for Anies? Ahmad Riza Patria, the Gerindra Party's nominee for the Jakarta deputy governor position, speaks at an event in Jakarta on March 3. Riza won the vote for deputy governor after beating out his rivals by a strong margin on Monday. (Antara/Galih Pradipta)

The long-winded search for a figure to fill the Jakarta deputy governor position came to an end on Monday after city councillors voted in Gerindra Party politician Ahmad Riza Patria to the post.

Many critics have blamed the administration’s inability to swiftly address Jakarta’s complex problems on the almost two-year absence of a second-in-command in the country’s capital, but observers say that Riza’s appointment might not necessarily make things any better for Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan.

Riza grabbed a resounding victory in Monday’s election, securing a total of 81 votes. Nurmansyah Lubis, a contender from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), gained a mere 17 votes, with two votes thrown out from a total of 100 votes.

"In accordance with the results of the vote count, Ahmad Riza Patria has been elected the Jakarta deputy governor for the remainder of the 2017-2022 term,” City Council Speaker Prasetyo Edi Marsudi of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) announced on Monday in a livestream of the voting process.

Council secretary Hadameon Aritonang said the council would immediately submit a decree announcing Riza as the Jakarta deputy governor-elect to the Executive Office of the President and the Home Ministry as the legal basis for installing him, most likely on Tuesday.

Riza's triumph has shown that the majority of political parties in the City Council – with the PKS as an exception – agreed to support the 50-year-old former lawmaker.

The vote tally for the PKS, Gerindra’s erstwhile ally, is only one vote higher than its 16 seats in the City Council.

Only two councillors from the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) cast their vote, while another six votes were submitted too late. PSI faction head Idris Ahmad refused to announce the party's decision as of the time of writing.

Several politicians from other parties who backed Riza said that the Gerindra platform shared an ideology that was “similar” to their own, though there may be other reasons behind the vote.

Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) political researcher Arya Fernandes said that the parties in the council that voted in Riza stood to gain from the fact that Gerindra now sided with the central government.

“Riza is in close proximity to the leadership posts of various political parties and the central government, which would give them [city councillors] easier access to budget-related matters for Jakarta including, for instance, grants or social assistance that they can still legally tap into,” Arya told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The Jakarta deputy governor seat has been vacant since Gerindra politician Sandiaga Uno resigned from the post in August 2018 to run alongside party chairman Prabowo Subianto in the 2019 presidential election.

After his rival and incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was reelected, Prabowo shifted the party’s allegiances from being a staunch opposition party to being yet another party in the big-tent coalition, for which he was appointed defense minister. Gerindra also took the helm of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.

While Monday’s election brings an end to months of political horse-trading to fill in the No. 2 spot in Jakarta, the result may in fact put Anies in a tougher spot ahead of the 2024 presidential elections. Anies is seen by observers as a potential contender to whomever gets the backing of Jokowi’s supporters in 2024.

Political analyst Adi Prayitno from State Islamic University (UIN) Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta said that the city administration could be heading toward a scenario where there were “twin suns” in one sky, with the possibility of future friction between the governor and his newly elected deputy.

“[This] means that any decision Anies makes might not necessarily be approved by his deputy. That’s the most likely [occurrence] in the future, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic,” Adi told the Post on Monday.

Adi said the decision-making process between the governor and his deputy would likely spark its own head-turning dynamic, even if they manage to keep the partnership intact for the COVID-19 response. Anies has been vigorously promoting virus mitigation policies that go against the central government’s own directive.

Jakarta State University (UNJ) political scientist Ubedilah Badrun shared a similar sentiment.

“This might cause sluggish decision making at the gubernatorial and deputy gubernatorial levels, [especially] because the deputy governor could always be directed by Gerindra,” he told the Post.

“At some point, the political chemistry between both [Anies and Riza] might be disrupted. This might put Jakarta residents at risk due to protracted decision making.”

But there is also another possibility, if Gerindra plays its cards right.

Adi said that Riza could act as a “bridge” between Anies and Jokowi.

“Gerindra could play two anchor roles: Riza could neutralize the tenuous relationship between City Hall and the Presidential Palace in a positive way, which should be optimized,” he said.

After COVID-19 spread to Indonesia, having a second-in-command in Jakarta became a more urgent matter, as large-scale coordination meetings between the city administration and the central government became increasingly unthinkable.

Jakarta politicians, particularly those who support Riza, have insisted that a deputy governor is needed now more than ever to help Anies in handling the COVID-19 outbreak in the capital.

Despite the possibility of friction between Anies and his new deputy, Adi urged both sides to rule out any political conflict of interest while handling the deadly disease.

“We need them to give a solid performance because humanity comes first,” he said.

Indonesia had reported more than 2,400 COVID-19 cases with 209 fatalities as of Monday afternoon. Jakarta is the hardest-hit province with 1,232 confirmed infections and 99 deaths.