Jakarta election without ‘Kang’ Emil

Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil, popularly known as Kang Emil, has decided not to run for the Jakarta gubernatorial post in February next year. His decision, on the one hand, was applauded by the people of Bandung. On the other hand, it disappointed many who had expected to see a neck-and-neck competition in the Jakarta election.

Although Kang Emil said he had pulled out of the race before it began because he wanted to finish his mandate as the mayor of Bandung until 2018.  However, I believe there are several political reasons behind his choice.

As a mature and smart politician, Kang Emil has calculated the advantages and disadvantages, costs and benefits as well as the consequences and implications of his decision.First, people, particularly Bandung people, will respect and trust him more for his commitment to serve his full term and, hence, fulfill his campaign promise to develop Bandung. 

This decision will give him opportunities and time to complete his homework, such as solving transportation woes and flood management issues and realize his dream to transform Bandung into the first technopolis in Indonesia.

Second, politically the decision to stay in Bandung will boost his popularity and cement his image as a politician who is not hungry for power. He will be seen as a committed, loyal, trusted and integrated leader, a unique political figure who is neither opportunistic nor unfaithful as many other Indonesian politicians.

Third, he has a great chance of winning reelection as Bandung mayor or the West Java gubernatorial post in 2018. The more achievements he can show, the greater his opportunity to clinch the gubernatorial post. 

Ridwan might also have considered the possible negative outcomes if he pushed himself for the Jakarta gubernatorial race. If he loses his popularity rating might decline dramatically, or his political career might end altogether.

Kang Emil’s decision not to contest the Jakarta election will significantly impact the race. The incumbent governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama could win the election unchallenged. A number of surveys found that Ahok was setting the pace so far, with Ridwan and Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini the most viable contenders.

Former law and human rights minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra, businessman Sandiaga Uno, singer Ahmad Dani and others have been touted as potential candidates, but their popularity could not match Ahok’s, at least today, forcing political parties to think twice before choosing them.

Ahok’s uncontested popularity, let alone win, should raise a question about the role of political parties as the institutions responsible for producing and grooming candidates for public office. 

With Ridwan opting out, it’s time for political parties to work hard to find or “create” an equal contender for Ahok. The more alternative candidates the better because the people of Jakarta deserve the best of the best for their leader.

The blessing in disguise in Ridwan’s decision to forfeit the Jakarta election is that a dynamic and growing city like Bandung will remain under his leadership. Indeed performing and successful regional leaders like Ahok, Ridwan, Risma and others should avoid competing with each other. They are needed in their respective regions.

Indonesian people from Sabang to Merauke would be happy to see committed and outstanding figures elected as their leaders to address the equality gap that has been plaguing the country for so many years.

Hopefully, Ridwan will eventually lead West Java, Ganjar Pranowo will win reelection as the Central Java governor, Risma will take the gubernatorial post in East Java and Ahok will secure a full five-year mandate as the Jakarta governor for the good of their people.  It will be not exaggerating to expect one of them to lead Indonesia someday as they are the outstanding leaders of our democratic system. 

Ahmad Ali Nurdin, writer is a lecturer at Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Sunan Gunung Djati Islamic State University, Bandung.

The Jakarta Post, Thu, March 03 2016, 9:35 AM.