PKS and PAN win the governorship of West Java

West Java is the most populous of Indonesia’s 33 provinces. On Sunday gubernatorial elections were held in the province with a somewhat surprising result. According to Indonesian Survey Institute polls, the ‘HADE pair’ Ahmad Heryawan and Dede Yusuf from the Prosperous Justice Party and National Mandate Party, respectively, have won almost 40 per cent of the vote. Incumbent governor Danny Setiawan from Golkar came second with his running mate, Agum Gumelar.

Generally the turn-out for the election was low, only some 35 per cent of the voters, so the party who could move their supporters all the way to the voting booth had a strong hand. Opinion polls prior to the elections had found a much stronger support for Golkar and PDI-P than the final result.

The Prosperous Justice Party in particular has received a lot of attention since the 2004 parliamentary elections where they increased their votes from almost nothing (1.3 per cent) to seven per cent of the votes. In the presidential elections of 2004 they did not have a candidate themselves, but supported Amien Rais from the National Mandate Party. A main explanation for their success in 2004 lies in the shift towards a strong anti-corruption agenda and their strong mobilisation at the grass roots level.

In the Bandung area, where I have interviewed several members and a few executives of the Prosperous Justice Party, the party has undergone remarkable change over the past ten years. In the first period from 1999 to 2004, the party was viewed with suspicion by the other parties in the district legislature. The party had at that time only recently been formed, on an ‘Islamic’ basis. The other parties were concerned about ‘Islam fanatik’ which was the derogatory term for some religious groupings during the Suharto era. Since 2004 they have worked pragmatically and steadily gained a foothold in the legislature. They have worked together with Golkar and PDI-P and put their mark on pieces of important district regulation.

From my interviews it seemed clear that they balanced between an ‘establishment-critical’ and a more pragmatic stance. They have been very successful at that. In the Bandung area they have mobilised through a range of religious institutions; prayer groups, youth organisations, sports associations.

As argued by Jun at SEMESTA, the ‘HADE’ win can be explained by the mix between PKS’s strong mobilisation at the grass roots level and PAN’s celebrity mobilisation through the former TV and movie star, Dede Yusuf.

Ahmad Heryawan has for many years had a reputation as a public speaker on Islam, and in Islamic institutions. Through these activities, he has gained trust and dedication among voters.

Dede Yusuf has starred in a number of films dealing with issues of youth and adolescence. He became popular in a long-running TV show in the days of only one national channel, TVRI. In the 1990s he starred in some sinetron laga; action/fighting TV series, Hong Kong-style. He was well suited for such roles, previously winning the national Tae Kwon-do championships three times from the middle to the end of the 1980s. He has also been a quiz show host from 1992-1998 and acted in several commercials, one such for Bodrex, a top-selling analgesic drug in the country. He became active in politics with the advent of Reformasi, the reform era after Suharto, and won a seat in the national parliament in 2004. He has served on Parliament Commission VII on Energy and Gas. Interestingly the founder of PAN, Amien Rais has openly stated that Dede was not capable of governing West Java, but he still carried the support of the party’s present chairman, and won the candidacy.

It will be interesting to follow the performance of the new gubernatorial pair, Ahmad and Dede. Their respective party organisations should be very concerned to keep the pair in line and up to speed so that they can be a good example in the national elections next year.

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