Lessons from Banten Election
Barring some unforeseen circumstances, the six-year-old province of Banten will experience a real test of its democracy when it holds its first direct gubernatorial election tomorrow (Nov. 26).
All the preparations have been completed, including checks on the candidates’ health and wealth.
Individual wealth reports are required from each candidate to ensure transparency and an election that is free from vote buying or fraud. This is particularly important in Indonesia, where most people simply assume politicians are corrupt.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has verified and made public the candidates’ assets. In terms of the wealth of the candidates, Triyana Syam’un leads with total assets of Rp 329 billion. The incumbent, Ratu Atut Chosiyah, a businesswoman who took over the family construction firm, is second with assets valued at Rp 70 billion.
Four pairs of candidates are contesting the polls. Ratu Atut Chosiyah and her running mate Mas Achmad Masduki; Zulkiflimansyah and former actress Marissa Haque; Triyana Syam’un and Benyamin Davinie; and Irsyad and Ahmad.
The run-up to the election has been relatively smooth, despite the disqualification of one pair of candidates for lacking necessary political backing and the discovery of some fake ballots. Another hiccup is that many eligible voters who live in subdistricts bordering Jakarta have yet to receive their voter cards. And they are just among the tens of thousands of Banten residents who could lose their right to vote due to administrative errors.
More worrying, the provincial poll watchdog Panwasda has recorded several violations that could be considered serious breaches of the election law, including the use of minors and government officials in campaigns.
Banten’s direct gubernatorial election will surely be of interest to the managers of Jakarta, as well as residents of the capital, which will hold its first direct gubernatorial election next year. Jakarta should study the vote in Banten and watch how the neighboring province manages security and other election issues.
Banten, whose several regencies used to be part of Jakarta and West Java, has made amazing progress over the last six years.
Things got off to a bumpy start when Banten’s first governor, Djoko Munandar, was dismissed for graft. But his deputy Ratu Atut Chosiyah took over the administration and has won praise for her clean leadership in guiding the province of more than nine million.
Banten’s economy grew 5.88 percent last year from 3.95 percent in 2001. This success has encouraged provincial managers to launch an investment campaign called Banten Gerbang Investasi (Banten, the Investment Gateway).
From a legal point of view, Banten has also made substantial improvements. Chosiyah has said that legal certainty and law enforcement are key to wooing investors.
There are many things Jakarta will be watching for in the Banten vote, because what happens there could have a serious impact here.
Chosiyah and Masduki, who were nominated by the Golkar Party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Star Reform Party, the Crescent Star Party and the Prosperous Democratic Party, can expect a strong challenge from Zulkiflimansyah and Marissa, who are backed by the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Indonesian Syarikat Party.
If Zulkiflimansyah and Marissa win, it will confirm the position of the PKS as a major political player, after having won the legislative election in Jakarta and the mayoral election in Depok, another commuter suburb to Jakarta.
While we expect the election in Banten to proceed peacefully, administrative hiccups and political rifts could lead to a delay. But we expect the administration and people of Banten to address all these problems in a smart and mature manner.
Whoever wins the Banten gubernatorial election, the first concern for Jakarta will be security. Only with good security will the new governor and deputy governor be able to continue the economic success story that Banten has become.
And a prosperous Banten will only benefit Jakarta, which could expect fewer people from the neighboring province to pour into the capital in search of work.
The Jakarta Post, November 25, 2006