Asip Hasani, Kediri, East Java – The road to the top administrator's seat in Kediri regency, East Java, looks to be clear for Hanindhito Himawan Pramana, the son of Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician and Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung.
He has managed to secure a key vote from local figure Sutrisno, who, as husband of the incumbent Kediri Regent Haryanti and a former regent himself, vowed to end his political resistance against the 28-year-old in the upcoming regional elections scheduled for December.
Hanindhito, whose father is a Kediri native, previously bagged a recommendation from the PDI-P's central executive board (DPP) to run for regent there, before going on to secure the support of eight other political parties that won legislative seats in the 2019 election.
He pairs up with Dewi Maria Ulfa, leader of the Kediri branch of Fatayat Nahdlatul Ulama – the women's wing of NU – who is the candidate for deputy regent.
As contestants in a one-horse race, all of the parties have thrown their support behind the Hanindhito-Dewi ticket. And if the General Elections Commission's (KPU) extension of the registration period sees no independent candidate sign up to challenge them, they may well run against a blank box on the ballot paper.
"With this recent development, we are confident in setting a target of winning at least 80 percent of the vote," said Murdi Hantoro, the newly appointed head of the PDI-P's Kediri branch, in an interview with The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
Sutrisno's family is one of the longest-serving political dynasties of post-Soeharto Indonesia. Sutrisno, 66, served as Kediri regent for two terms between 2000 and 2010, while his first wife Haryanti, 71, is soon to conclude her second term as regent this year.
When she was first elected in 2010, Haryanti was the richest regent in the country, with a reported fortune of more than Rp 40 billion (US$2.71 million). In her first term, she won more than 54 percent of the vote and defeated two other candidates, including Nurlaila, Sutrisno's second wife.
Nearing the end of his wife's second term in office, Sutrisno had since last year prepared to nominate Mujahid and Eko Ediono, his close aide and a relative, as the next candidates for regent and deputy regent, respectively.
However, the pair was reportedly rejected by the PDI-P's central board, which then prompted Sutrisno to resign on Dec. 20 last year as head of the party's Kediri branch, which he had led since 2014.
On July 17, the PDI-P officially endorsed Hanindhito-Dewi to run for the regency, which was soon followed by a movement calling for the people to abstain in the upcoming Kediri election.
Sutrisno had backed this movement as a response to the party's rejection of his pairing of choice, but made a complete U-turn late last month by vowing to support Hanindhito and Dewi's candidacy.
"I am waiting for Pak Pram's [Pramono] instruction. I am ready to help," Sutrisno told journalists on Aug. 25, without divulging the reason for his change of mind. "Don't ask me why; this is enough for the public to know."
Some sources, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue, told the Post that the sudden shift in Sutrisno's stance was the result of pressure on him and his family, including over investigations by police and prosecutors into alleged corruption in the Kediri administration.
The Kediri Regency Police have confirmed a preliminary investigation into some cases.
In the world's third-largest democracy, where regional autonomy has not always translated into good governance, the existence of entrenched political dynasties in Indonesia has posed a lasting challenge to the development of democracy and civic participation.
In a survey by Kompas' Research and Development Department in July, almost 30 percent of the 553 respondents said political dynasties were simply normal practice and part of the nation's democratic process, even though the majority of those polled were fed up with them.
Taufiq Chavifudin, head of the United Development Party's (PPP) Kediri branch, expressed disappointment over the process that has allowed Hanindhito-Dewi to run uncontested in the upcoming Kediri election.
He said it would undermine the quality of the electoral process.
"Along with Gerindra and the PKS [Prosperous Justice Party], the PPP has struggled to maintain support for the Mujahid-Eko ticket. As we can see, local support from both those parties has been driven into the ground by their respective central boards in Jakarta," Taufiq told the Post late last month, just a few days before the PPP officially backed Hanindhito-Dewi.
The PPP was the last political party to publicly endorse them. The pair has now secured 100 percent support from the political parties that hold all of the regency's 50 legislative seats.
Taufiq said the Mujahid-Eko pairing would have carried on the reign of the Sutrisno dynasty, but that a stronger force from Jakarta was intent on establishing a bigger and even stronger dynasty by backing Hanindhito.
"I think Kediri has become the target of a nationwide political agenda orchestrated by the 'Palace Coalition' in preparation for the 2024 election," Taufiq said.
Despite Sutrisno's endorsement, a big question still hangs on the possibility of running against a blank box on the ballot paper, especially if people choose to cast their votes against the sole contenders.
Eka Wisnu Wardhana, a commissioner for the KPU's Kediri chapter, said it would prepare accordingly. "We will have two boxes on every ballot paper; one for the candidate pair and another left empty [for abstentions]," he told the Post recently.
He said that if the blank box received more votes than the candidate pair, then the election would need to be redone the following year.
Kediri regency has around 1.28 million voters and a considerably low rate of voter participation, which has in part allowed the Sutrisno clan to hold on to power for some 20 years.
In the 2010 regional election, just 65 percent of the population cast their vote. In 2015, this number was 61 percent.