Fachrul Sidiq, Jakarta – The general election is still a month away but for some residents the voting has already begun, as on Sunday over a hundred members of the Jakarta Urban Poor Network cast their ballots to select legislative candidates hoping to win their support.
Taking place in Kampung Kunir, Pinangsia district in West Jakarta, the first ever convention was held to grill and select legislative candidates who promise to convey the group's aspirations when elected. The area is home to some of the JRMK's members who experienced forceful eviction in 2015.
This is, however, not the first political move made by the JRMK, as they previously threw support behind then-Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Anies Baswedan during their respective gubernatorial campaigns in 2012 and 2017.
Anies had signed a political contract with the group in 2017 resulting in kampung improvement program Community Action Plan (CAP) and permits for becak (pedicab) drivers to operate again in certain areas of the capital city.
The group, comprising low-earning residents that are often sidelined in the city's policies and prone to crackdowns and eviction, invited candidates seeking a seat in the Jakarta City Council (DPRD), the House of Representatives and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) to present their ideas to try and win the support of the JRMK.
While no DPD candidates registered for the convention, five DPRD candidates and two House candidates from five political parties took turns to convince JRMK members.
After the presentation and question and answer session, five representatives from each neighborhood unit (RT) grouped under JRMK cast their votes.
With members spread across 16 of the city's kampungs, mostly in the northern and western part of the capital, JRMK coordinator Eny Rochayati said the JRMK could give 2,500 votes for each selected DPRD candidate and over 10,000 votes for each House candidate.
The issues raised during the convention included what the candidates would do if elected to revise the city's spatial planning. The issue matters for the group as many of its members currently live in areas considered to be illegal based on the existing zoning system, even though they have lived there for decades. The other issues are about kampung and economic welfare improvement.
But the candidates' presentations appeared to fall flat for the participants.
"Actually, the presentations from all candidates were not satisfying. They just seemed to campaign for themselves without understanding the core issues we want them to address," Eny said. "But we chose based on their commitment, as we plan to conduct more meetings with them."
One candidate from each dapil (electoral district), who won the most votes, got the support of the JRMK and signed a political contract.
The candidates running for seats in the House are Arsyad and current lawmaker Saraswati "Sara" Djojohadikusumo of Gerindra, who are both from dapil 3, which covers North Jakarta, West Jakarta and Thousand Islands regency. Arsyad earned more votes than Sara, who is the niece of Gerindra chairman and presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto.
During his presentation, Arsyad claimed he would support the JRMK, despite admitting that he would play a less significant role in overseeing Jakarta than members of the City Council.
Candidates for the DPRD include Nursimah Dara of the National Mandate Party (PAN), a long-time vendor at Tanah Abang traditional market, who was the sole candidate at the convention from dapil 10, which covers Grogol Petamburan, Taman Sari, Kebon Jeruk, Palmerah and Kembangan, all in West Jakarta.
She beat the nonexistent competition after promising that she would help small scale vendors grow their business and give them access to sell in traditional markets.
Meanwhile, there were four DPRD candidates battling in dapil 3, which covers Penjaringan, Pademangan and Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta. Melati Permata Jelita from PAN garnered the most support, leaving behind Heriandi Lim of the National Awakening Party (PKB), Anggoro Yudo Mahendra of the Democratic Party and Dama Atmada of the Berkarya Party.
On the sidelines of the event, Melati said she attended the convention as it was a challenge for her to woo voters instead of the regular political visits to meet residents.
She acknowledged that by supporting the poor, she might lose votes from middle-class people, who supported tough eviction polices. But she brushed off the concerns saying that standing up for the poor was her intention.
"I attended this convention because I know there are not many people who care about poor people," she said.
Two DPRD candidates from dapil 9 actually registered for the convention, but realizing that only a few JRMK members reside in the district, the group decided to leave it out.