Parties pledge to get real in campaigns

Acknowledging that voters may become overwhelmed by outdoor political campaigning, some political parties have said they are considering cutting back on entertainment and public speeches to focus on the dissemination of their platforms.

Lawyer and human rights campaigner Ifdhal Kasim, a member of the legal team that advises Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, said that after 59 years, the time was right for the country to engage in more advanced political campaigning.

“Throughout Indonesia’s history, no political party has ever used public campaigns to disseminate their platform and political agenda. The PDI-P wants to be the first party to initiate this style of campaigning for this general election,” Ifdal said.

He acknowledged that most of Jokowi’s supporters and his campaign team were still using the old tricks of directing personal attacks against his opponents.

But that was about to change, Ifdhal said.

“Pak Jokowi has stressed that we must be able to formulate a program-based campaign. Our team is currently working on several programs that will be introduced in our campaign. For example, Jokowi said he wanted to introduce his vision on how to build connectivity between all the islands in Indonesia to bring down transportation costs,” he said.

This country has a long history of political campaigns being filled with cheap entertainment and candidates trading insults with one another.

In 1955, a campaigner from the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) said the Islamic-based Masyumi Party would see the country become a desert with camels living in it won power.

During the New Order era, when political campaigns were pre-programmed events, the main attraction were free dangdut music concerts to entertain voters. The practice is still continued today.

Other political parties also plan to use the remaining days of campaigning for something more substantial.

United Development Party (PPP) politician Muchbari said the party had no plan to hold a mass gathering in Jakarta during the outdoor campaign period and, instead, had instructed its legislative candidates to meet with would-be voters ahead of the April 9 legislative election.

“Honestly, the party would need to spend a lot of money to hold a mass gathering, covering the costs of logistics, entertainment and transportation for the campaign participants. And all we would get would be people attending the event focusing their attention on dangdut singers instead of our politicians,” he said.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) decided that each of the 12 parties contesting the election would have the opportunity to hold seven campaign events in each of the country’s 77 electoral districts between March 16 and April 5.

In total, a party can hold up to 539 campaign events during the 21-day period.

The PPP sent their legislative candidates on Thursday to meet the public in several areas in Jakarta, including the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta and the Mall of Indonesia in North Jakarta.

Political analyst Burhanuddin Muhtadi said the PDI-P’s idea to deliver concrete programs during the campaign period was a positive breakthrough.

“This type of program-based campaign, however, will not automatically translate into votes. There are two reasons for this. First, most voters will have already made up their minds and second, many of them do not have the wherewithal to process the content of speeches delivered during the campaigns,” he said.

Meanwhile, at an outdoor campaign event in Medan, North Sumatra, Golkar Party chairman and presidential candidate Aburizal Bakrie said his party would continue on the path already adopted by previous governments if it won the legislative election.

“We will maintain their course for the victory of Indonesia. Golkar will guarantee that,” he said.