STOP CATERING TO ELITE'S COMFORT ZONE By: Dr. Gun Gun Heryanto (Published by The Jakarta Post on May 12, 2015) Although the governme...


By: Dr. Gun Gun Heryanto
(Published by The Jakarta Post on May 12, 2015)

Although the government of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has been running for six months, it has not yet provided an adequate impression of a pro-people authority. Neither has Jokowi reached a balance between the political forces.

Nonetheless, it is too early to conclude that the Jokowi government has failed. Criticism and constructive input is needed to avoid the enigmatic political trap that could mislead Jokowi in the labyrinth of power.

The Poltracking survey results released last month showed public satisfaction in the first six months of the Jokowi-JK (Jusuf Kalla) administration is still low. Among respondents, 48.5 percent said that they are dissatisfied with its performance.

One of the biggest tests in the initial phase of Jokowi’s government was about his ability to become a true leader. Jokowi is the President, not the chairman of a particular political party. Three factors created problems for him in the beginning of his period.

First was the overall political attitude of the coalition partners, especially after his victory in the general election. The real battle began when the victory had just been gained. The political attitude refers to the perceptions, actions and policies among the government-supporting parties.

As referred to by James P. Carse, in his Finite and Infinite Games (1987), a finite game is one with a beginning and an end (particularly of power). A finite game is often used as a mere tool to win power.

This situation usually creates finite players, the politicians who display their sheer desire to gain power. If the impression of Jokowi’s government continues to be one of power-sharing while neglecting people needs, there will be a further significant decline in trust and a decrease of public expectations.

Second was the management of political communications with former president Megawati Soekarnoputri to overcome the stigma that Jokowi is merely a puppet president of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

It surely must not be easy for Jokowi, since the PDI-P is his current political home and its chairperson is Megawati, who is the veto player who determines the entire strategic policy of the party.

It implies that the power relations between Jokowi and Megawati will contribute either positive or negative values. It would be positive if Megawati ensured that all levels of the party fully support the work of Jokowi’s government.

This would be under the condition that Ibu Mega acts as a statesman-like way to provide flexibility for Jokowi to work and dedicate his power to the people.

In contrast, Mega contributes negative values whenever her statements and actions put Jokowi in a subordinate position in her party, without appreciating his highest of positions in politics and government.

The scholars Leslie Baxter and Barbara Montgomery in Dialogues and Dialectics Relating (1996) define this pattern of relationship as a relational dialectic situation — characterized by tensions between contradictory impulses. Various issues mark the dynamics and indicators to measure the performance and endurance of Jokowi’s leadership under pressure from Megawati.

Third was the political equilibrium point amid power fragmentation outside of government. The numerous political parties and the spread of power across several actors leads to transactional political communications, rather than an interactional communication involving mutual give and take.

In the transactional model, the actors negotiate ideas, thoughts and their actions in a competitive and paradoxical political sphere. The current political atmosphere, however, is more asymmetrical, where the friend or foe is unclear. Therefore, well-planned and well-organized political communications are needed to maintain government endurance amid pressure from various forces. Jokowi should emerge as a risk-taking leader by fulfilling his political promises to his people instead of merely managing the comfort zone of the power elites.

Therefore, the most strategic position for Jokowi is as the President and the servant of his people, not as a party officer. The power mandated by the people entrusts Jokowi to bring change for the better for this country. Jokowi and Kalla should prove they can escape from this enigmatic democracy trap.

This refers to a democracy that generates puzzles, prejudices, absurdity, disorientation and navigational loss within unclear dynamics. This is caused by the failure to actualize the fundamental principles of democracy itself.

This artificial democratic practice may strengthen in the era of Jokowi-Kalla under two conditions.

The first is if the leaders are unable to achieve their maximum performance in a measurable and visible manner regarding the immediate benefits felt by many people. The earlier campaign tagline of “Jokowi-JK is us” needs proof now about whether they are still for the people who won them their top jobs.

Jokowi-Kalla should not build a wall separating the leaders and the people. They should consider each public policy on a consensus-based rationality and as public-oriented policy. Excessive political imagings should be stopped as it is delusive and addictive.

The second is a political retrogression trap, the degradation of political quality as the result of a power dispute among political parties. If Jokowi-Kalla are unable to advance a meritocracy, but instead continue to accommodate more power sharing, the quality of governance will decrease and the people might not feel that public interest is being prioritized above that of the leaders.

The elected leaders are walking up a steep path of democratic consolidation. Therefore, it takes excellent endurance to be consistent in their initial goals of fulfilling their campaign pledges. They also need the endurance to keep walking and bringing significant changes. - See more at:

The author is executive director of the Political Literacy Institute and lecturer of political communication at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) Jakarta.


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