New faces triumph over incumbents in Indonesia

JAKARTA - A former national tennis player, a former shoeshine boy who is now chairman of the Ferrari Owners' Club of Indonesia and a bevy of artists are among the candidates who have won enough votes to be new MPs in Indonesia's 560-seat Parliament.

The ongoing tally of results of the April 9 General Election has also seen voters reject approximately half the incumbents who stood for re-election, including prominent MPs, in favour of fresh faces.

Heavyweights who failed to win a seat include House Speaker Marzuki Alie of the Democratic Party, Deputy Speaker Priyo Budi Santoso of Golkar and chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly Sidarto Danusubroto of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P).

"This is a form of punishment from the public towards their representatives who they feel have failed to perform over the past five years," researcher Bawono Kumoro of The Habibie Centre said in an interview with The Straits Times. "It should also be a lesson and warning for new MPs."

Sitting ministers who ran for Parliament seats also lost, including Law Minister Amir Syamsuddin and Sports Minister Roy Suryo, both from the battered Democratic Party.

Several sitting MPs who were not re-elected have cried foul, saying they were cheated by candidates with deeper pockets.

Mr Bawono said while this possibility cannot be ruled out, the widespread rejection of incumbents suggests voters also want new faces to speak for them.

While final results and seat allocations will be finalised only later this week - and even then, may be disputed - province-level counts give a strong indication of candidates who have made it.

There will be 10 parties in the new Parliament. The largest, PDI-P, is expected to get around 110 seats and the smallest, Hanura, around 30 seats.

New MPs will not be sworn in until this October, but some have already spelled out what they would focus on if elected.

For tennis coach Yayuk Basuki, 43, who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 1997 and won an Asian Games gold in 1998, this includes changing the way sports is managed in Indonesia.

A National Mandate Party candidate from Central Java, she hopes to lift the performance of her country's sportsmen and start a programme to help athletes balance school with sports, among others.

For others, like Mr Ahmad Sahroni, 36, of the new National Democratic (NasDem) Party, it is improving the welfare of residents, many of whom he grew up with and who helped elect him.

The son of nasi padang sellers near North Jakarta's Tanjong Priok port shined shoes and loaned umbrellas to people when it rained to get by, before making his money selling fuel to ships.

Celebrities and former stars have been among the clearest winners to emerge in recent days.

Among those who won seats for the first time are former action hero movie star and Democratic Party candidate Dede Yusuf, 47, the former deputy governor of West Java, and racing car driver Moreno Suprapto, 31, who is from the Gerindra Party and elected from East Java.

Coming from a political family also helps; former international relations lecturer Ahmad Hanafi Rais, 34, was elected from Yogyakarta province.

A graduate of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, he is the eldest son of PAN founder and former Muhammadiyah chairman Amien Rais.

But Mr Hanafi told The Straits Times his experience running for mayor of Yogyakarta city in 2011 - he lost - helped, as did a regular slot on a TV comedy show. He also took Javanese lessons to better communicate with older voters, and now plans to push for digital broadcasting, review cross-ownership of media and beef up the role of state broadcaster TVRI.

But political observer Donny Syofyan of Andalas University in West Sumatra finds that there are two sides to the high turnover of MPs and the emergence of new faces.

"The public wants figures of reform," he said. "But those who win are often public figures, media darlings or issue-makers. Many of the best also fail (to get in)."

This article was published on May 5 in The Straits Times.

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