And Jakarta voted…


For Jakartans, 20 September 2012 would be a historical day and for some, it’s a free leave day to plan your long weekend out of the city (offices in Jakarta are given a holiday for people to go out and vote). It is the day when the fate of commuters in Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi (Bodetabek) are decided by the voice of Jakartans. Most likely it is also the day when the fate of property developers in the Bodetabek area are decided as well.

Quick count results show that Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) won against the incumbent governor Fauzi Bowo. Many articles already point out why Jokowi stands out from Fauzi Bowo, such as this piece in NYTimes or in Foreign Policy about Princeton’s case study on Jokowi’s leadership in Solo, but I’m interested more in the level of participation of voters – only 67.35% (the first round of elections was 64.4%).

When people vote, they vote for the leaders on top, but the real impact is indirect because voters mostly deal with the street-level bureaucrats on a daily basis (diagram below). My hypothesis is that the low turnout of voters is caused by people assuming that whom they vote for won’t matter because business-as-usual in the Jakarta bureaucracy will be implemented – thus voting won’t change a thing. Personally I believe we need to persuade voters that there are leaders that can change how the bureaucracy work and they can deliver results – though there are still few in Indonesia. It is just unfortunate that in Indonesia these leaders are pre-selected by political parties and not by the people.


Technically Jokowi hasn’t won yet. The official results from KPUD needs to be announced some time in October and he has to formally resign as the Mayor of Solo (with entailed risks if he’s not permitted by DPRD). Jakartans on the other hand, are impatient and they want to see quick results (i.e. less congestion, less floods). No matter who becomes governor, it depends whether he/she can change the way things work in the bureaucracy through his/her leadership, program and policies. And this doesn’t come instantly.

Then there’s that problem unique to Jakarta. It is Indonesia’s engine of growth (see figure above from the World Bank) and it definitely attracts people from the rest of the country. What the future governor needs to realize is that policies to prevent people from coming to Jakarta is futile, because in principle, cities attract poor people. What Jakarta needs is a governor that is committed to develop its people as complete human beings (education, housing & health) and not just develop places that caters to the rich.


One thought on “And Jakarta voted…”

  1. A problem, one that you have faced, is that a fantastic set and mix of policies will do you little good if your ability to implement effectively, enforce and monitor are very low. The job of retooling Jakarta, indeed Indonesia, involves the painful and slow task of “retooling” the civil service, the police, the courts, etc. Good intentions, I am afraid, are almost beside the point.

    On the issue of electronic road controls in the thread before this one (now closed), I have some insights to share. In my line of business electronic voting and voting machines are seen as a panacea to improve elections. Any serious person involved in electoral administration will tell you that IT is just a tool, not an end. If the institutions and processes are not in place, IT solutions are likely to decrease efficiency and transparency while increasing cost. Why are decision-makers always so keen on quick-fix technological solutions? One reason is that technology is sexy and gives the impression of modernity and that politicians take the issue seriously. Another is that these technologies are capital intensive and the awarding of contracts, purchasing, installation and operation open ample opportunities for “skimming off the top”.

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