The 2019 presidential election is exactly a year away this month. But, despite the fact that no nomination has been made official yet, hardcore supporters and opponents of President Joko Widodo have already shown that next year will likely be far from peaceful.
An ominous sign of what is to come took place yesterday during Jakarta Car Free Day (CFD), when a huge anti-Jokowi crowd wearing #2019GantiPresiden (replace the president in 2019) t-shirts amassed around the Hotel Indonesia (RI) roundabout. Jokowi supporters, wearing #DiaSibukBekerja (He’s busy working) t-shirts, also showed up in considerable force, but were still vastly outnumbered by their rivals.
(Political rallies have in fact been banned from CFD since former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s gubernatorial decree in 2016, yet it clearly wasn’t enforced against the two t-shirt crowds yesterday.)
Some Jokowi supporters who dared to wear #DiaSibukBekerja t-shirts received some extremely hostile treatment from the #2019GantiPresiden crowd, as shown in this on-the-ground viral video from Youtube channel Jakartanicus:
The video shows three instances in which Jokowi supporters were intimidated by the #2019GantiPresiden crowd. First, a couple is taunted for wearing white #DiaSibukBekerja t-shirts, with the anti-Jokowi crowd taunting them by waving cash and jeering, “How much did they pay you (to wear the t-shirt)?”
Next, a middle aged man wearing a #DiaSibukBekerja t-shirt is shown receiving similar treatment from #2019GantiPresiden supporters, with the intimidation bordering on the physical as some shove the man as he tries to walk through them. Shouts of “cebong!” (a shortened version of the Indonesian word for “tadpoles”, derogatorily used against Jokowi supporters to mock the fact that the president kept frogs as pets while he was the mayor of Solo and the governor of Jakarta) can also be heard throughout.
But perhaps the most disgraceful act by some in the #2019GantiPresiden crowd comes towards the end of the video, where they surround and screamed at a woman for wearing a #DiaSibukBekerja t-shirt. The woman is walking with a little boy, presumably her son (who wasn’t even wearing a political t-shirt — his featured a print of his hero Captain America), who seems to be crying due to the intimidation of the anti-Jokowi crowd.
Then, in what has already become an iconic act of defiance against hatred, the woman sternly tells the boy, “We are not scared! We are right! We will never be scared!”. She then turns to the harassers and says, “By God, all of you! You treat a mother this way! What kind of Muslims are you?!” after which they back off.
The #2019GantiPresiden t-shirts have become a popular item throughout Indonesia since they were first sold earlier this month, with opposition party Gerindra admitting that they were one of the groups selling the t-shirts to help fund their chairman Prabowo Subianto’s potential presidential campaign.
News outlet Viva also reported that there was religious element behind the #2019GantiPresiden action yesterday, as some in the crowd reportedly came out under the orders of hardline group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader and porn fugitive Rizieq Shihab, whose political support is being sought by Gerindra.
While the #2019GantiPresiden crowd dominated CFD yesterday, most political observers would say that, at the moment, their hopes of unseating Jokowi in next year’s election are nothing but a pipe dream. In the most recent major survey, President Jokowi’s electability and government satisfaction rating continued to soar while the numbers of his closest potential challenger, Prabowo (whose nomination still hinges on whether his Gerindra party can consolidate their seemingly crumbling opposition coalition), is decreasing.