Kolom AIPI

PKS and its graft-tainted image

firman noorBy: Firman Noor, Ph.D

The North Sumatra General Elections Commission (KPUD) has declared incumbent Governor Gatot Pujo Nugroho and his running mate Tengku Erry Nuradi winners of the election with 33 percent of the vote. Gatot, a member of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), beat closest rival Effendi Simbolon, a House of Representatives lawmaker from the Indonesian Democracy Party of Struggle (PDI-P), who secured 24.3 percent of the vote.


It was a second win for the PKS this year after its victory in West Java last month through Ahmad Heryawan, or Aher, who was also the incumbent.


This PKS double success highlights the Muslim-based party’s grassroots support benefiting from both incumbency and a lack of real contenders.


Contributing to PKS success is primarily the fact that its candidates had performed relatively well during their term of office. In West Java, Aher, for instance, won plaudits from national and international institutions for his accomplishments in many important fields, including children and women empowerment, corruption eradication and food security.


As for Gatot, it was his achievements in reducing poverty, unemployment and inflation during his short period as governor.


In fact, Gatot’s ability to deal with economic development impressed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who appointed him chief of the Board of Special Economic Region for North Sumatra.


The real accomplishments of the two incumbent governors attracted voters.

The second reason is the absence of competitive and well-known candidates able to match the incumbent in the elections. In West Java, although Deputy Governor Dede Yusuf was the most popular candidate, the people in general were not really impressed by his achievements. It also happened to Rieke Diah Pitaloka, PDI-P lawmaker, who was the most serious challenger of Aher.


In the case of North Sumatra, the playing field is similar to some extent. The strongest opponents like Effendi and Irawan Pasaribu lacked popularity both in terms of accomplishment and personality.


The third factor is that people in general and supporters of Aher and Gatot in particular did not really care about news reports on corruption involving former PKS president Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq. Many people nowadays are very analytical in response to political issues. They tend to avoid making generalizations in assessing a candidate.


The capability of the party leadership to maintain trust of members and supporters plays the main role in keeping the party’s solidity, which in the end results in full support to win a regional election. In this case, Luthfi’s graft case did not automatically ruin the party’s image.


In fact, the sense of being a victim of “external conspiracy” prevailed among party members, including those in West Java and North Sumatra, and increased their determination to win the elections and prove their commitments. This situation demonstrates the effectiveness of internal indoctrination by PKS leaders to protect members from external opinions or agendas.


The back-to-back election wins proved that PKS networking at the grassroots level work, enabling the candidates to promote their platforms, programs and increased popularity in an effective way. In other words, the PKS victories were a result of the candidates’ positive image and programs, generated mainly through social activities, including humanitarian activities and pengajian (Koran recital gathering).


This selling process was much easier since both Aher and Gatot were incumbents. In the case of West Java, Aher received a boost due to the presence of Deddy Mizwar, a popular movie actor known for his clean and religious image, as his running mate.

The presence of effective networking also enabled the PKS to successfully counter smear campaigns. In many areas, the party’s networking went on until the eve of voting day to ensure that any negative political maneuvers could be contained quickly, including vote buying attempts.


The writer is a researcher at the center for political studies at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), and a lecturer at the department of political science, school of social and political sciences, at the University of Indonesia.


Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/03/26/pks-and-its-graft-tainted-image.html

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