Incumbent sneaky strategies boomerang on sneaks

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Hersubeno Arief
Senior journalist, media and political consultant

IO – When we look at how Jokowi faces his opponents, we see a consistent thread: he first acquires his political opponents, then uses them to counter-attack the opposition. He lets his opponent fight among themselves, only to conquer them when they have weakened. Within certain limits, Jokowi has successfully implemented the war principle stated by master war strategist Sun Tzu: “Exhaust them by making them take the long way around. Let them fight among themselves. Be subtle in order to remain unseen. Be mysterious so that you become untouchable. Then you will master your opponent.”

Unfortunately, he did not manage to implement the principle entirely. Jokowi’s weakness in identifying and selecting figures to server as his proxies, as well as his weak leadership, turns everything into a mess. All of Jokowi’s blades are blunt and they all turned back against him. And now, he is using the latest recruit called “La Nyalla Matalitti”.

An Inventory of Jokowi’s Recruited Former Opponents
Jokowi started by recruiting Ali Mochtar Ngabalin. The former Crescent and Star Party (Partai Bulan BintangPBB”) politician who defected to the Functional Groups (Golongan Karya – “Golkar”) became a very strong weapon for Jokowi. He did everything for a simple reward: to become a part of the Presidential Staff Office (Kantor StafKepresidenan – “KSP”) and a commissionership in PT Angkasa Pura I. Ali, a former member of Prabowo-Hatta’s campaign team in the 2014 Presidential Elections, went on attack mode in television and other mass media every day. However, Ali became a boomerang and weak point for Jokowi: the public hated his confronting style. Due to this antipathy, Ali is now being taken away from the public eye gradually.

The next recruit is West Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Barat – “NTB”) Governor Tuan Guru Bajang Zainul Majdi. Tom P. Power, a researcher from the Australian National University said that TGB was brought to his knees using the Newmont divestment case. The .pdf of Power’s article, “Jokowi’s Authoritarian Turn and Indonesia’s Democratic Decline”, is widely circulated in social media platforms. At the start of his recruitment, TGB was also a good weapon for Jokowi. His background as a religious figure, successful governor, and even a possible Presidential Candidate according to the 212 Alumni, was quite convincing. However, as time went by, TGB became no longer effective for attacking Prabowo. TGB is not even included in Jokowi’s campaign team.

Jokowi’s biggest political catch so far is Ma’ruf Amin. The Chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia – “MUI”) and the Rais Aam of PBNU was selected as Jokowi’s Vice President. Ma’ruf is also a central figure in the GNPF MUI. As MUI’s General Chairman, Ma’ruf has issued the fatwa (religious decree) that declared Ahok to be a blasphemer. It is hoped that by selecting Ma’ruf as his Candidate Vice President, Jokowi will get solid support from the Nadhdlatul Ulama (“NU”), as well as breaking up the solidity among the supporters of the 212 Action. This urban Islamic movement is Jokowi’s most fearsome enemy that he still cannot manage to conquer up to this day.

However, the ummat (Islamic flock) has begun to abandon Ma’ruf as time goes by. The 212 Reunion went on successfully. Millions of Muslims and adherents of other faiths crowded in Monas and ignored Ma’ruf’s objections. “What do they do that for? The case is closed anyway,” Ma’ruf said. Furthermore, Ma’ruf’s presence started to become an internal issue for the campaign team. He became a weak point that provides no positive contribution towards Jokowi’s electability. Jokowi and Ma’ruf’s electability became stagnant, even declined. Head of the Campaign Team Erick Thohir and Luhut Panjaitan start to fret about Ma’ruf’s prolonged illness. Ma’ruf is absent from campaigns for over a month due to “leg sprain”.

Famous da’i (sermonizer) Yusuf Mansur (YM) is also a target of Jokowi’s political acquisition. YM is known to have had legal problems in investment. The East Java Police finally closed one of these cases. Unlike the other recruits, YM seemed embarrassed and tried to cover up the fact, for example by having meetings with opposing Candidate Vice President Sandiaga Uno. Even though he did not state his support openly, YM also suffered the same fate: a lot of users have uninstalled Paytren, the online payment method that he has developed.

Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam – “FPI”) Great Leader Habib Rizieq Shihab (HRS)’s circle are also becoming acquisition targets. Kapitra Ampera, one of HRS’s former lawyers, was recruited through his announcement as an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan – “PDIP”) Legislative Candidate. Kapitra’s case is unusual, as it is suspected that he is actually a Jokowi mole placed within HRS’s inner circle. I suppose it is inaccurate to call Kapitra a “political acquisition”, as he is merely taken back after his job is considered done. However, it is actually premature – his mission is far from being complete.

Another phenomenal recruitment is that of PBB General Chairman Yusril Ihza Mahendra (YIM). With the excuse that he was recruited as Jokowi-Ma’ruf’s legal representative, YIM went directly on the offensive and leveled personal attacks against Prabowo. Unlike his initial statement of simply resolving legal issues, YIM acts more like a politician supporting the incumbent. His decision caused internal turmoil in the PBB. Many of YIM’s supporters, including PBB Legislative Candidates, are all against his decision. There is even an effort to gather forces to eject YIM. We can almost predict how PBB will fare in the 2019 Legislative Elections, as its voters are traditionally Jokowi opposers.

Jokowi is now making use of his latest political acquisition, the Chairman of Pemuda Pancasila (Pancasila Youth) East Java Chapter La Nyalla Matalitti. La Nyalla has been actively attacking Prabowo’s personally for the last few days. For example, he challenged Prabowo to be an imam salat (leader in joint prayer) like Jokowi. He even dared to state that he would cut his own neck if Prabowo-Sandi wins in Madura.

We predict that La Nyalla’s offensive strategy will not provide any electoral benefits for Jokowi, but would actually prove detrimental. La Nyalla’s less than savory reputation in East Java will also affect Jokowi. The saying goes, “If you want to know who a person is, look at who he is friends with.” Continued utilization of La Nyalla shows that Jokowi’s political acquisition acumen has gone down. He is no longer selective, but just picks up anyone.

Other than the above figures, Jokowi and his team have also managed the phenomenal political acquisition of the Indonesian Unity (Persatuan Indonesia – “Perindo”) Party General Chairman Hary Tanoesoedibyo. As a supporter of Prabowo in the 2014 Presidential Election, Hary Tanoe surrendered and defected to Jokowi after the Attorney General’s Office investigated the Mobile 8 Tax Restitution case. Hary does not actively attack Prabowo-Sandi, but he uses his media network (MNC Group) to provide effective campaign for the incumbent.

Established Pattern
The large number of acquisitions from the opposing team shows that Jokowi and his team are frantically attempting to implement Sun Tzu’s strategy. However, the means are not subtle and comprehensive enough. They are trying to exhaust the enemy by causing internal strife, but they are too obvious and not subtle and mysterious enough. The pattern used by Jokowi’s team is easily readable: they target figures with strong Islamic basis (except for Kapitra and Nyalla), who have weak principles. All of his targets are easily conquered with political promises and legal pressure.

This causes a boomerang effect. All of the public figures that Jokowi turns into political weapons become blunt: their supporters leave them. What happens is that the opponent becomes even more solid, for example with the success of the 212 Reunion. The shepherding of public opinion, stigma, even cellphone bomb terrors fail to prevent millions from massing out in Monas. The absence of central religious figures such as Aa Gym, Ustad Arifin Ilham, and Habib Rizieq does not stop the people from flocking to Monas.

The failure of these political maneuvers causes Jokowi and his supporters to become confused and panicked. Jokowi asked his supporters to create a competing action, and have repeatedly asked why there has been no demonstration made to support him instead.

Jokowi is losing faith to the solidity of his supporters. There is a rumor that Jokowi supporters are holding a mass meeting on 20 January 2019 (the 201 Action) in Jakarta and other major cities, with the hope to help Jokowi’s electability rebound.

Learning from the results of the Indonesian Cultural Parade (412) held by Ahok’s political supporters soon after the 212 Action, failure seems to be imminent. Without a unified ideology and a sense of common misery, it is impossible to collect millions of people as in the 212 Action or the subsequent 212 Reunions. Brute force and financial power are not the answer.