The Jakarta Post
What appears to be a casual photo of Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan reading a book on Sunday morning has sparked debate among social media users, with some claiming that the photo is a subtle jab at President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration.
In the viral photo posted on the official Instagram page of Anies, the governor is seen reading How Democracies Die, a best-selling book written by American political scientists Daniel Zibllat and Steven Levitsky.
The book was widely interpreted as a manual to resist United States President Donald Trump’s supposedly authoritarian tendencies.
“Good morning, everyone. Enjoy your Sunday morning,” Anies wrote in the caption.
The photo has since fueled speculation among Instagram users, with many interpreting it as a message to the Jokowi administration given the timing of the post.
“The title of the book is an obvious code. Hope you’re staying healthy, sir!” @ozonnmariana states in the comments section of the post.
“Wow, the book. Be careful not to aggravate anyone, sir,” @imfl2830 commented.
Anies was at the center of public scrutiny following his alleged leniency toward those who violated COVID-19 protocols during a series of mass gatherings for Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab in Greater Jakarta between Nov. 10 and 14. Following the gatherings, which involved thousands of people to welcome the return of Rizieq to Indonesia, Anies was summoned and questioned by the Jakarta Police for 10 hours last week.
The governor was also criticized for visiting the controversial cleric at his home in Petamburan, Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, upon his arrival to the country, purportedly only to “catch up” with him.
The central government has since doubled down on efforts to enforce health protocols, issuing a new policy under which a regional leader may be removed from office for failing to ensure public compliance with COVID-19 measures.
Responding to Anies’ Instagram post, Universitas Pelita Harapan political communications expert Emrus Sihombing said the photo may have been a message to the people aimed at shaping public opinion.
“Images and symbols never exist in a vacuum,” Emrus told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
“Every photo posted on social media [platforms] such as Instagram exists in a public space. Everything that exists within the public sphere must have a purpose.”
He went on to say that Anies would not have bothered posting a photo of him casually reading a book on a massive online platform unless it served a concrete purpose. He also noted that it was common in politics nowadays to communicate through social media. Anies has 4.8 followers on Instagram.
“If I were to hypothesize based on the photo alone, I would say Anies is trying to suggest that democracy in Indonesia is not how it’s supposed to be,” Emrus told the Post.
At the time of writing, Anies’ Instagram post has garnered over 273,000 likes. On Twitter, How Democracies Die is currently trending in Indonesia.