Voting public fed up with ‘status quo’, prefer new candidates, change

Kompas – December 17, 2007
CSIS researcher Indra Jaya Piliang (Tribune)
CSIS researcher Indra Jaya Piliang (Tribune)

Jakarta – The large number of incumbent officials that have been loosing in regional elections is being caused by a number of factors, including the public’s rejection of status quo forces and a desire to vote for new leaders. The preferences for a new face is originating from the floating masses whose numbers are considerable.

This was the conclusion obtained from a number of sources contacted by Kompas over the weekend of December 15-16. Incumbent officials have been defeated recently in South Sulawesi, North Maluku, South-East Sulawesi, Bangka Belitung and West Kalimantan.

Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) researcher Indra Jaya Piliang, who was contacted in Aceh on Sunday, suggested that the principle reason is that the public is seeking change. “Whenever there is the slightest chance to bring about a change, the public votes for someone new, although in voting for someone new there is of course an element of speculation”, he said.

According to Piliang, when the public is fed up with an old leader and a new candidate appears who actually has the same abilities as the old leader, the public will go for change. Thus it is new candidate leaders that are winning regional elections.

“The majority of them are from the floating masses. For example there are people who at the last minute change their minds at the voting booth, and there are significant numbers of these. This kind of thing may very well happen in the coming presidential elections”, said Piliang.

Dr Jayadi Nas, a lecturer in political science at the Hasanuddin University in the South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar, made similar remarks when contacted on Sunday. The defeat of incumbent officials reflects the public’s rejection of status quo forces.

“Remember that in general incumbents are candidates from the Golkar Party, so this phenomena is at the same time a warning for the party of the Banyan tree. Golkar has no other option but to undergo a process of self introspection. It is time that nominated candidates not be local Golkar Party chairs who happen to be governors, but they should look for the best cadres who are visionary and energetically able to read the public’s wishes”, said Nas.

Concrete programs

Speaking separately, the Strategic Director of the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI), Widdi Aswindi believes that incumbent candidates generally do not have concrete and innovative programs. When a new candidate emerges that offers a more implementation orientated program, the public is more interested.

Aswindi also noted that although the programs being offered in campaigns are only promises, a more concrete working program could become a strong draw-card for potential voters in determining their choice.

In South Sulawesi for example, the winning candidate was the one who offered free healthcare and education programs that had previously been rejected outright by the incumbent candidate. Whereas according to Aswindi, this program was very concrete and implementation orientated.

“Based on the first survey we carried out, in fact incumbent candidate consistently outdid the other candidates. Because however they were overconfident and failed to fully make use of their political machine, and chose instead to use bureaucratic channels that can in fact be a double-edged sword, at the last minute they were outdone by the other candidates”, explained Aswindi.

He added that in relation to incumbent candidates that used bureaucratic channels, in general the reports that they receive are reports in which the most important thing is to please the boss. This is not considered good strategically.

With regard to Golkar Party defeats in a number of regional elections, Aswindi said that this because Golkar is overconfident. Whereas support for the party has never really taken root so it cannot in fact be relied on too much.

Piliang also noted another reason that could to constitute a background to the defeat of incumbent candidates. He said that the average age of incumbent official means that they are simply not young anymore.

LIPI researcher Alfitra Salamm made similar remarks. He gave as an example regional elections in South Sulawesi where the public voted for candidates that were younger, more energetic and would bring change.


There were also indications that elements of primordialism contributed to the electoral outcome in West Kalimantan not long ago, in which the Cornelis-Christiandy Sanjaya ticket obtained the most votes.The ticket defeated three other candidates including the incumbent ticket of Usman Jafar-LH Kadir, Oesman Sapta-Ignatius Lyong and Akil Mochtar-AR Mecer.

LSI executive director Saiful Mujani who was contacted in the West Kalimantan city of Pontianak late last week said that in general the behaviour of voters in West Kalimantan is still very primordial in terms of ethnic group and religion.

According to Mujani, this was apparent from the composition of the votes, with the votes from the Melayu (Malay) ethnic group and people of Madurese origin (from Madura island) – the majority of whom are Muslims – being split between Jafar, Sapta or Mochtar.

The Cornelis-Christiandy Sanjaya ticket meanwhile had the solid support from indigenous Dayaks and the Tionghoa (Chinese) community – the majority of whom are Christian – which was estimated to have been as high as 40 percent. (DOE/NAR/WHY/SIE)

[Translated by James Balowski.]