Muradi, Bandung | Opinion | the Jakarta Post| Sat, April 28 2012, 9:19 AM

After the gubernatorial election in Aceh, Jakarta and West Java will follow suit. The elections in Jakarta (to be held in the coming months) and West Java (next year) have drawn public attention due to the fact that the incumbents will take on contenders from other regions and local leaders.

Jakarta voters were surprised by the candidacy of Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his running mate Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and the pair of South Sumatra governor Alex Noerdin and former Marine Corps commander Nono Sampono.

The first ticket is nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and 27 political parties that are not represented in the City Council, while the second is supported by a coalition of the Golkar Party, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Peace Prosperous Party (PDS).

Jokowi is the mayor of Surakarta and Ahok was formerly the regent of East Belitung in Bangka-Belitung before his election to the House of Representatives (DPR) in 2009. 

In West Java, a number of reigning regents have announced their bid to enter the gubernatorial race. Cirebon Regent Dedi Supardi, Sumedang Regent Don Murdono and Kuningan Regent Aang Hamid Suganda will fight each other to win endorsement from the PDI-P. Bandung Mayor Dada Rosada will seek support from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party. Golkar’s West Java chairman Irianto “Yance” MS Syafiuddin, a two-time Indramayu regent, has openly announced his quest for the governor post, claiming to have secured the blessing of Golkar boss Aburizal Bakrie.

Newly dismissed Subang regent Eep Hidayat once intended to join the race, but his imprisonment has all but dashed any hope of running.

Incumbent Governor Ahmad Heryawan of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and his deputy, Dede Yusuf, of the Democratic Party, will almost certainly take part in the 2013 election as rivals.

However, there are three interesting points related to the rise of the local leaders in the upcoming West Java gubernatorial election. The first is the political regeneration process, where local leaders who succeed in leading their regions are promoted to a more strategic or higher post like governor of Jakarta and West Java.

Jokowi is known as the “most wanted” cadre of the PDI-P and Ahok of Gerindra is also remembered as a successful regent of East Belitung. Golkar picked Alex as its candidate for the Jakarta election also due to his commendable performance as South Sumatra governor.

The second is political parties’ commitment to the improvement of internal political education, which in the past failed to produce quality candidates for public posts. In many elections for the regent and deputy regent posts and the legislative elections, political parties were tempted to nominate celebrities with a hope to win votes via their popularity.

The third point is about the political mobility process where successful local leaders are given opportunities to try their best to win seats in strategic and greater regions. There are many reasons behind such political mobility, including personal interest and the skills of cadres, along with a combination of political and financial interests of parties.

I notice, however, the rise of candidates for the gubernatorial elections in Jakarta and West Java are limited to political mobility based on short-term political interests. 

However, the political machine for the election process is not completely controlled by the central board of each political party, but is also related to the electability level of the local candidates. The problem is that their ability and electability in greater and more strategic regions has not yet been proven.

The positive and appreciated effort of the local leaders, however, is in their eagerness to strengthen the democratic process. They show that the local democracy in Indonesia works dynamically and responds positively to people’s demand for alternative leaders. To be a leader, one should not only rely on fame and money, but also performance within a political party.

The presence of candidates from the regions, promoted by political parties, for the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Jakarta and West Java is a lesson for political parties to seriously improve their internal political education. 

They have to develop a new mechanism that provides their cadres with equal opportunities to contest public posts. Once they succeed in local levels, they will have the opportunity to compete in a bigger and more strategic political stage like the Jakarta gubernatorial election in July this year.

The writer is a lecturer of the Department of Governance Studies at Padjadjaran University, Bandung.