Seminar on New Forms of Political Activism and Electoral Campaigning in Indonesia

This seminar focused on political activism and how informal, non-partisan mobilization affects the party-dominated arena of electoral politics in Indonesia.
Tuesday, 14 June 2016 – The Indonesia Studies Programme hosted a seminar by Dr Dirk Tomsa, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and Philisophy, La Trobe University, Melbourne, and Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. 

Once regarded as inherently antagonistic arenas of contestation, formal electoral politics and the political activism of social movements are now increasingly seen as closely intertwined. Campaigns would not be run in the same way as 10 years ago. Dr Tomsa cautioned that rather than social movements per se, these could be more accurately considered as electoral movements. The volunteers, unlike social movement, only wanted the candidate to win, placing high trust in the individual candidates. After the election, volunteers’ influence on policy making is very low.

(Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

This phenomenon of electoral movement therefore seemed to have reached their saturation point in the 2014 presidential election, and is unlikely to repeat in the next. The potential for wholesale replication is limited. It is still very much an urban phenomenon, difficult to be replicated in outer island with low visibility, since the mobilisation needs established media networks that can accord the candidate enough national recognition and patronage networks for distribution of resources.

Dr Tomsa posited that the mass mobilisation of volunteers marks a new form of political activism in Indonesia. (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

The seminar was chaired by Dr Ulla Fionna, ISEAS Fellow, who has also been researching on political aspirations in Indonesia. (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Pro-Jokowi movements were hybrids between social movements “from below” and political movements strategically created “from above”. The contingency also relies on various factors—such as Jokowi’s charisma and status as a political outsider and the high stakes attached to the elections—but certain elements of the new activism are probably here to stay. 

Close to 35 people attended this seminar. (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)