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Cablegate: East Java: Voters Ignore Endorsements; Politicians Ignore

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1. (SBU) Summary: Media giant Jawa Pos Group's Pro Otonomi
Institute (JPIP) was established in 2002 to evaluate and rank
the performance of individual regencies in East Java. While
JPIP has successfully focused the attention of some elected
officials on the relationship between job performance and public
satisfaction, thus far, the rankings have not been used by
incumbents or their challengers as campaign tools. After the
recent upset of the incumbent in Bojonegoro Regency, that might
be changing. The Regency's plummeting JPIP rankings should have
been indicative of voter discontent, but neither the incumbent
nor the local religious leaders who endorsed him got the
message. The Bojonegoro voters' decision to ignore the advice
of their community leaders may offer a warning to other
politicians that voter discontent, as reflected in JPIP
rankings, will increasingly influence East Java's election
results. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) On December 11, Pol/Econ Officer and Pol/Econ
Assistant met with Maksum (one name only), Managing Editor of
Jawa Pos and Director of Jawa Pos Group's Pro Otonomi Institute
(JPIP). The ratings compiled by JPIP cover three key areas with
three related sub-areas: Public Services, Economic Development
and Local Political Performance. Innovation, going beyond
simply providing a service and radically altering the way
services are provided, is given special attention by JPIP. The
rankings can highlight some interesting trends, if politicians
are paying attention. Out of a total of 38 regencies in East
Java, Lamongan Regency, which has a reputation for strong
management, rocketed from number 35 in 2005, to number 10 in
2006 in the category of Public Services/Education. By contrast
Banyuwangi, Jember, Tuban and Sampang regencies scored
consistently in the bottom third of each category between 2005
and 2006. Local elections in these regencies in 2008 will test
the predictive ability of JPIP's survey data on the incumbent's
re-election hopes.

3. (SBU) The Regents themselves are not quite ready to accept
JPIP's results. One Regent contacted the JPIP office to ask
that his Regency be excused from the competition because they
were "not ready to compete this year." When Maksum explained
that exposing this lack of preparedness was precisely the point
of the survey, the Regent was incensed. Concerned about a loss
of face and bad publicity, more than one Regent has offered JPIP
bribes to gain a higher ranking, or even an award. Maksum tells
these Regents that only improved public services as reflected in
surveys will affect their rankings, "JPIP doesn't decide who
gets the award, their constituents do." Regents have a hard
time understanding this, Maksum said.

4. (SBU) Results of a recent Regency election in Bojonegoro,
located almost 100 km west of Surabaya and home to Exxon-Mobil's
Cepu oilfields, suggest that the incumbents and the parties that
supported them should have paid more attention to their dismal
JPIP ranking -- near the bottom of the list in providing public
services. Bojonegoro dropped from 20 to 30 between 2005 and
2006 in the category of public services. Reaping the rewards of
voter dissatisfaction were challengers Suyoto and Setyo Hartono,
who won with 32.5% of the vote and support from the National
Mandate Party (PAN), the United Development Party (PPP) and the
National Bull Freedom Party (PNBK). The incumbents, Retired
Army Col. Santosa and Budi Irawanto, who were supported by the
Democratic Party (PD), the Indonesia Democratic Party of
Struggle (PDI-P) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS),
garnered just 26%. The third place finishers Thalhah and Taman
Syaifudin, who were supported by the National Awakening Party
(PKB) and Golkar, received nearly 25%. None of the losing
candidates appeared interested in campaigning on the issues,
according to Maksum, preferring to depend on religious leaders
(Kiai) to get out their vote.

The Kiai are Kingmakers no More

5. (SBU) A December 13 Jawa Pos opinion piece by Zainuddin
Maliki, Rector of Muhammadiyah University in Surabaya, points to
the Bojonegoro race as a watershed for political endorsements.
Traditionally, powerful Kiai have had the ability to make or
break candidates. The Kiai's storied ability to deliver votes
to endorsed candidates has been iron clad, particularly in rural
East Java. As a result, nobody correctly predicted the outcome
in Bojonegoro because powerful Kiai had endorsed the incumbent.
Two nationally prominent Kiai were caught wrong-footed on

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Election Day. The candidates who placed last were endorsed by
Hasyim Muzadi, the head of Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), the largest
Muslim organization in Indonesia. Another influential Kiai,
Abdullah Faqih, head of Langitan Islamic boarding school
(pesantren) in Tuban, East Java, endorsed the incumbent. Maliki
pointed to the over-reliance on these endorsements by the losing
candidates and their Parties for the upset.

6. (SBU) In a 13 December meeting, Kacung Marijan, Professor of
Political Science at Airlangga University, concurred with
Maliki's conclusions. Kacung stressed to us the emblematic
nature of Bojonegoro's recent election, noting that Kiai now
lack the authority to tell people who to vote for. He observed
that while the more devout "East Java horseshoe" (tapal kuda)
region stretching from Madura to Pasuruan might still be
strongly influenced by Kiai in the voting booth, Kiai influence
has been blunted in East Java as a whole. Marijan said that a
true appeal to the "common man" (wong cilik) would characterize
future campaigns.

Can the Pocketbook Beat the Holy Book?

7. (SBU) If Bojonegoro's experience is any guide, religious
endorsements are no longer a substitute for a solid appeal to
the broadest possible spectrum of voters. The winning campaign
mounted by Suyoto and Setyo Hartono focused on improving the
lives of the "wong cilik" in a rural regency where 80% make
their living as farmers. The Suyoto-Hartono team campaigned
actively among bicycle-rickshaw drivers, small traders and
farmers. Kiai endorsements were displayed prominently on
posters, banners and in speeches, but they failed to motivate
voters. According to Maliki, other candidates were counting on
endorsements from religious leaders to secure these votes and
ignored this key constituent.

8. (SBU) JPIP's rankings would appear to provide a handy list
of poorly run Regencies and, by association, vulnerable
incumbents. Despite obvious usefulness to incumbent and
challengers alike, Maksum told us that neither elected officials
nor political parties seem to have drawn the connection between
the JPIP rankings and future political strategy. Nor have the
rankings found their way into campaign rhetoric itself.
Bojonegoro's election has shown the limits of a candidate's or a
party's ability to assess their support and strategize. The
declining ability of local elites to influence election outcomes
is equally significant. It remains to be seen whether the
lesson of Bojonegoro will be learned by incumbents in regencies
like Jember, Tuban and Sampang -- all rock-bottom scorers on the
JPIP list.

© Scoop Media

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