How to Win Elections in Indonesia?

Insights from the Campaigns for Jakarta Governor 2012

This online exhibition shows photographs, videos and other material from the 2012 election campaigns for the Governor’s office in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. It covers the two main pairs of candidates in the field: incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo (Foke) and his running mate Nachrowi Ramli (Nara) vs. challenger Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and his running mate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok).

The exhibition was designed to allow you to browse through and just pick individual sections that might be interesting to you OR read it as a story from beginning to end. As this is not an academic article it does by no means aim at presenting a comprehensive picture of the dozens of different campaign strategies followed by each team. Due to the mostly visual nature of an exhibition, several important but less visible elements of these campaigns can only be hinted at within this framework. Nevertheless, this exhibition aims at conveying an impression of how enormously contrasting these two pairs of candidates and their respective campaign approaches were and what has enabled Jokowi’s remarkable rise from small town mayor to Governor of Jakarta to most promising presidential candidate within just a bit more than a year.

Fauzi Bowo and Nachrowi Ramli mostly relied on typical strongman campaign tactics involving money politics, voter intimidation, campaigning based on ethnic and religious discrimination, and mobilisation of various ally groups from within their patronage network, but also staged media events and expensive advertising. While Fauzi was believed to win easily within the first election round, the radically different campaign strategy of challenger Joko Widodo turned the game around (Jokowi-Basuki 42.6 % vs. Fauzi-Nara 34.05%), leading to a remarkable catch-up race and his final victory after a second election round (JB 53.82 % vs. FN 46.18%). Jokowi and his running mate Ahok combined strategically located face-to-face campaigning with a clever marketing technique to capture the attention of the media. They performed on a good governance agenda of providing services for the population, against ethnic or religious discrimination, and promoting the inclusion of the population into politics.


The campaign strategy of Jokowi and Basuki was to a large extent based on face-to-face campaigning in the slum areas of Jakarta. Their arrival was often anticipated with a mixture of curiosity and sceptisism, however, mostly the candidates managed to switch the atmosphere to one of excitement and even euphoria within a few minutes.

They immediately pick up individual conversations with people of the kampung (neighborhood), while walking through the narrow alleys lined with tin-roofed huts and shaded by plastic sheets. Dozens of potential voters and even more kids follow them on their way through the densely packed kampung.

Every now and then Jokowi or Ahok stop to enquire about the often very visible problems of the area (flooding, bad water- and sanitation conditions, waste-disposal). They explain the most important points of their programme, such as a health card or cheaper education.

During the whole time their entourage of a few close campaign team members and party allies responsible for organising the event in that particular kampung remain quietly at a distance. Only their bodyguards in civilan clothes stick around closely but almost invisible. There are no speeches by local leaders, party members or the like.

This creates a very personal and lively atmosphere for the encounter. People are laughing and joking around as they follow along through the kampung or pose for the journalists’ cameras (or mine) to show the “rock ’n roll” campaign sign with three fingers. This stands both for the candidates’ no. 3 on the ballot and Jokowi’s love for rock music. Using this hand sign was new to most people and created quite some fun and confusion, when people tried to get it right. Over the course of the campaign it became so iconic that ever since no. 3 candidates in several other local elections all across Indonesia have taken it over as their own campaign sign.

An important direct effect of these face-to-face campaign events is, that the population feels genuinely respected by the candidates, as they even take time for several minutes of personal discussion, as Basuki here does in a several minutes long conversation with a pious Muslim man (Basuki is of Chinese descent and Christian, which plays a large role in his own as well as in Fauzi’s and Nara’s campaign – albeit in very different ways, as we will see later).

Many voters even feel honored to have the chance to meet Jokowi or Basuki and come up with their own creative ideas to support the candidates. In this case two women came rushing after Basuki with a caricature of him riding a bicycle, which they had made themselves and they wanted him to sign.

However, the central point of these campaign events was not to meet as many people as possible and directly convince them to vote for Jokowi-Basuki – an attempt which would have been doomed to fail in a city of more than 10 million inhabitants. This strategy could only be successful because it was paired with a highly clever marketing of these events via the media, so that the messages sent at these small events affected the perception of the wider population.

This marketing strategy via the media had actually begun several months before the campaign got to the grounds of Jakarta neighborhoods. Agenda-setting pushing selected issues of Jokowi’s performance as Mayor of Solo into the national media made him rise as a media darling as soon as his candidacy had been decided behind the scenes. Overall this turned out to be so successful, that the campaign for the local Governor’s office developed into a national event on a scale never seen before for any local election.


The incumbent Fauzi and his running mate Nara chose a very different strategy quite in contrast to the personal face-to-face approach of Jokowi and Basuki. During the first official two-week campaign phase in June / July Fauzi Bowo even left all the activities to his vice-candidate. Only in the evenings he would do campaigning behind closed doors.

The team carried out two main kinds of public campaign events, the first one being staged media events mostly taking place at their media centre with no electorate (other than journalists) present.

This group of pictures from the media centre shows typical scenes of these staged events: A group of celebrities has been taken under contract to voice their support for Fauzi-Nara. While Nara speaks they are obviously completely bored and don’t pay any attention to what is going on, until the moment they are asked to give their two-lines statement of support for the cameras. What they say is almost the same, uninventive and fairly unconvincing standard phrase. The journalists do not bother to ask questions, because they know the answers are meaningless. Then the stars and starlets get up to show the candidates’ sign no. 1 with the index finger, smile for the photographers and off they go. The media will make a brief news item out of this, saying celebrities X and Y have stated their support for Fauzi and Nara. During the rest of the campaign we will not hear from them again.


The second type of public campaign events by the Fauzi-Nara team took place outside and usually involved cloths-covered pavilions and chairs for the VIPs to sit, a stage, microphones to bridge the distance between the speakers and the voters and a line-up of local leaders, strongmen, party allies etc., all delivering longwinded but mostly empty speeches.

This set of five pictures is a prime example of such an event in a neighborhood in Central Jakarta. First, Nara sits together with several other VIPs on a shaded verandah in the back of the stage, while waiting for his turn to speak. He is hardly visible to the audience assembled in front of the stage, all niecely dressed up in brand new campaign shirts or shirts of ally organisations. When it is his turn he starts with a several minutes long list of acknowledgements towards the present allies. During the remainder of his speech he makes a few jokes, which make the audience laugh and bring a moment of ease into the otherwise tense atmosphere. Apart from these instances the faces of the assembled population remain between disinterest, sceptisism and discomfort.

The reasons for this are – among others – to be found in two little details: In the back of the audience you see several men wearing caps with the writing FBR (Forum Betawi Rempug or Betawi Brotherhood Forum) – a Jakarta organisation between ethnic gang, local mafia, strongmen, employer on the informal market and generally a powerful local actor, particularly in this area of Central Jakarta. Nara holds close ties to FBR and their significant presence in this event sends a clear message who to vote for in this kampung.

Secondly, a banner reading Anak Polisi Pasti Pilih Foke-Nara (the clients and members of the police will vote for Foke-Nara). This banner is more than a mere statement of support from the police – which as a state organisation should remain neutral – it can be read as a “friendly reminder” for the local population to be on the right side, if they want to avoid trouble.


Aksi SAPU (Aksi Satgas Anti Politik Uang) or Action Task Force against Money Politics perfectly merges the two campaign event types mostly used by Foke and Nara: staged media event combined with a “show of force” directed at the electorate, while at the same time making sure to keep a distance from them – both socially and physically.

This time the purpose is the declaration of a task force against the use of money politics in the campaign. As usual, it involves a large array of allies from various parties and other supporting organisations of Foke and Nara. The action is meant to counter the manyfold accusations against the team, exactly because of their widespread use of money politics.

Again, a cloths-veiled pavilion is set up in the background for the VIPs to be seated in the shadow of the burning sun. A line-up of speakers gives their obligatory recitations of support and condemnations of money politics, while standing on a small podest at a large distance from the assembled population – but directly in front of Tugu Proklamasi – the momument commemorating the declaration of independence, complete with the statues of the founding fathers of the Indonesian nation Soekarno and Hatta. Only the press is allowed to come a little closer to take pictures.

After Nara’s speech the whole press is called closer to take the key picture: central figures from the ally groups, all men in the prime of life, well nurtured, several sporting expensive watches and gold or diamond clad seal rings, and wearing sunglasses so you cannot see their eyes. On top of this they wear white caps and shirts with the “Task Force Anti Money Politics” emblem – after this event you will not hear about this task force again. Instead of posing with the campaign sign of one finger (for ballot no. 1), they show a typical strongman guesture with their fist raised right into the cameras, conveying a picture open to interpretation.


In their largest event towards the end of the first election round the main candidate Fauzi Bowo attended a public campaign event for the first time.

Again, this event combines typical features of their campaign style: The obligatory comfortable sitting area for VIPs. A few celebrities advertised on the huge stage-spanning banner in the background; most notably Rhoma Irama, a famous singer and Muslim conservative, who should spark an outcry of protest a few weeks later, when he preeches in a Jakarta mosque that Muslims should not accept to have a non-Muslim leader. Here he is greeting Fauzi Bowo after he finished the performance with his band. Then, again, there follows the range of prominent speakers, this time quite high ranking party officials such as Anas Urbaningrum (at the time still Chairman of the Democrat Party, recently he had to step back because of large scale corruption allegations); Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono (son of the current president, Secretary General of the Demokrat Party, Vice Chairman of a sub-section in the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, until recently Member of Parliament); Wiranto (former military General infamous for being Commander of the Indonesian military during the last months of Soeharto’s dictatorship, former and future presidential candidate), and Sutiyoso (Governor of Jakarta before Fauzi Bowo and one of his sharp critics until he suddenly changed his mind half-way through the first campaign phase).

Interestingly, a few hundred supporters get squezed into the small space directly in front of the stage and directly in front of the media’s cameras, behind them a wall of large party flags and banners. In the videos and photos that will be used in official campaign material later on this looks like a sea of many thousands of supporters, while in reality behind the flags were mostly not more than a few dozen dispersed people. You can see the results of this in several brief scenes in the camaign video entitled Foke-Nara INSYA ALLAH Nomor 1 untuk 1 Putaran, which is displayed in the video section further below. This video shows many scenes filmed during this particular event. In line with this portrayal was the suspiciously equal “estimation” of all members on the campaign team claiming there were about 50.000 supporters present. My personal guess would be somewhere around 10.000.


Religion as well as ethnicity played a major role in the election campaigns of both teams. Having said that, there was a huge difference in how voters were attempted to be mobilised along those lines.

Jokowi is a moderate Javanese Muslim from the area Central Java. His running mate Basuki is a pious Christian of Chinese descent, originally stemming from an Indonesian archipelago far away from Jakarta (Kepulauan Bangka Belitung). The opposing Fauzi and Nara are both Muslims and originate from the local Jakarta ethnicity Betawi, which has a reputation for being rather conservative, compared to the more syncretistic traditional Javanese Islam. Therefore, it may seem natural that Foke-Nara were trying to attack this perceived weak spot of Jokowi-Basuki as not being “sons of the soil” (putra daerah) of Jakarta and not representing the religious stream of the local ethnicity.

However, this calculation neglected several important facts: Jakarta has a Muslim majority population of about 85 %, but with more than 10 % also a relatively large Christian population, mostly from the Chinese Indonesian minority (the term Chinese in this context refers to Indonesian nationals of Chinese ethnic descent, whose families mostly have been living in Indonesia for many generations). With an estimated 7 % – 10 % the Chinese hold a significant share of the Jakarta electorate. Furthermore, the local ethnicity Betawi has been strongly marginalized in Jakarta and today only makes up less than 30 % of the population. By far the largest voting block comes from the approximately 40 % of Javanese, who mostly follow the rather moderate form of traditional Javanese Islam.

Jokowi and Basuki understood how to take advantage from those figures. Generally the two performed on a platform against racial or religious discrimination, but this does not mean that they abstained from using racial or religious sentiments for their campaign purposes.


Rather silently and not very visible to the media or larger public Basuki ran an enormously successful underground campaign among Chinese and Christians, gaining the team remarkable 100% of the Chinese vote in the first election round and about 93% in the second. In public, however, the team was careful not to make his Christian belief a topic of debate, but rather countered the attacks against him by portraying Jokowi and Basuki as candidates for all religions and ethnicities in Jakarta. Meanwhile Jokowi devoted his evenings to tour through the Muslim communities of Jakarta and eat and talk with local Muslim leaders to portray himself in the media as a pious but moderate Muslim man.

During the fasting month of Ramadhan just after the first election round, he spontaneously made a small Hadj to Mekka, which was widely reported about. Ramadhan greeting cards with photographs from this Hadj were distributed among the population to be send to friends and relatives.

In these and similar ways they efficiently managed to counter the aggressive negative campaigning by Foke and Nara, who were trying to mobilize anti-Chinese sentiments and conservative Muslim ideas discriminating against other religious groups. Finally, Jokowi-Basuki even garnered about 48 % of the Muslim vote, drawing almost even with Fauzi and Nara among this voting block.


The term black campaigning (kampayne hitam) describes the use of discriminatory, illegal, or generally morally doubtful campaign strategies, such as defamation, personal attacks, spreading of lies etc.

Both campaign teams were accused of using black campaigning, however the attacks carried out by the team Foke-Nara were rather obvious, widespread and often particularly nasty. It was a major part of their campaign strategy, in particular in the second, more aggressive election round. Discussing the high risk such a strategy brings along, a team member even confessed “We know that it can backfire, but what shall we do? We have no alternative.” (confidential interview Jakarta, July 2012).

Hence, in the second election round the black campaigning was brought to full force. Regularly pamphlets against Jokowi or Basuki were spread in the city. In conservative mosques hate sermons against both candidates were to be heard frequently. The smear campaigns also spread online via the social media, most notably twitter. Both teams had hired groups of young people to fight the social media war for them. In Fauzi’s team, for instance, a group of 20-30 students assembled every evening throughout the second election round to follow a black campaign strategy specifically designed for the web: The messages were to be spread via one central twitter account, two “offspring” accounts (akun anakan) with a designated use of “blunt and open language” and another 400 minor twitter accounts, each student being responsible for administering 20 of those. These 400 accounts were to be used to retweet the messages of the first three accounts and counter other twitter users backfiring at them. Each student earned about 15 US $ per night. This went on for approximately one to two months during the second election round and the number of accounts was raised throughout this time to become about 600.

Among other things, the students were told to portray Jokowi as a tool for the 2014 presidential election bids of the party leaders Megawati and Prabowo; at the same time they should spread fear about Chinese vice candidate Basuki becoming Jakarta’s Governor in 2014, when Jokowi might run for presidential office himself; in a particularly impudent statement it was said that behind Jokowi-Basuki would be a hidden agenda of PKI (PKI is the former Indonesian communist party, destroyed in bloody massacres 1965/66, which brought dictator Soeharto to power; Communism is forbidden ever since and PKI does not exist anymore). After a series of fires in Jakarta’s slum areas the team of Jokowi and Basuki raised allegations against Fauzi-Nara of being behind these incidents, as the fires allegedly occurred in Jokowi’s strong support areas. The twitter team of Foke-Nara then was responsible for countering this attack by simply pointing the finger in the other direction: Jokowi and Basuki themselves would have created those incidents in order to defame Fauzi Bowo.

Interestingly, the teams usually tried to portray their defamations and allegations as “objective facts” supported by “evidence”. This can be nicely seen in the Anti-Jokowi flyer displayed here. The content of the flyer is translated in the separate document below.


In the early morning hours of the last day of campaigning before the final election supporters of both teams assemble at Bundaran HI, the large central roundabout and landmark in Central Jakarta. All of a sudden the campaign song of Jokowi and Basuki starts to play really loud. A small group of dancers performs a choreography telling the story of the campaign song. After 3 minutes of their performance the audience of about 3500 people suddenly starts to join in the dancing and pull off their jackets and shirts, revealing the iconic checkered campaign shirt of Jokowi and Basuki below. The song plays over and over again and the masses keep dancing, celebrating their candidates, who had just arrived at the scene.

This Flashmob had been organised during the previous two weeks via the social media. Somehow the organisers managed to get several thousand supporters informed and prepared for the performance, while keeping it a relatively well-kept secret. The opposing team did not know about this in advance, neither did many of the journalists covering the campaign events. This being said, it was of course made sure, that enough press, especially TV, was gathered in the right places to get good shots of what was going on. The event immediately went viral over the web, and TV stations broadcasted it over and over again for the whole day. (In the video section below you can see a video of this event and read an English translation of the song’s lyrics).

Therewith, it marked the peak of Jokowi’s and Basuki’s election campaign and sent a final key message to voters: Campaigning and politics can be done in a creative and positive way AND to make this work you should get involved and participate voluntarily to support who or what you believe in.

As if to provide a final counter evidence supporters of Fauzi Bowo and Nachrowi Ramli went around distributing flyers with anti-Chinese hate speeches directed against Basuki right at the same time and place (in the less crowded background of the photograph to the left).


Loosing the entire Chinese vote of the first election round to Jokowi-Basuki came as a shock to the team of Fauzi and Nara. Despite their aggressive anti-Chinese rhetoric no one had expected this. At least the rich and influential Chinese business community had been expected to be on the side of Fauzi Bowo.

Despite this defeat the anti-Chinese mobilisation grew even more aggressive in the second election round, as it was a crucial element to their dominant campaign strategy: the intensification of negative and black campaigning in order to weaken the enormously positive image of Jokowi and Basuki.

This type of campaigning was mostly aimed at a rather poor and uneducated Muslim electorate and based on widespread anti-Chinese stereotypes such as the corrupt and rich Chinese entrepreneur. It also built on a taboo from Soeharto times (Indonesia’s authoritarian leader from 1965 to 1998), stipulating that Chinese Indonesians cannot be in politics. This was paired with a radical Islamic demand not to accept a non-Muslim leader.

However, this does not mean that Fauzi Bowo and Nachrowi Ramli would be anti-Chinese, Muslim fundamentalist radicals. This approach certainly needs to be regarded as a tool in the face of lacking alternatives. Five years earlier during his first election into office Fauzi Bowo himself campaigned on an open and pluralist platform in order to counter his only rival – a Muslim hardliner.

In this context it also needs to be seen that the educated Chinese community of Jakarta was expected to dismiss this black campaigning as mere election rhetoric and not perceive it as a real threat. Accordingly, in this picture you see Fauzi Bowo on one of the last nights of campaigning before the final and determining election: He speaks in front of several hundred rich Chinese Indonesians assembled in a luxury Chinese club in the Chinese-dominated area of Glodok.

He stands at a distance of about 50 m even to the first row, alone, on a huge and empty stage. As forlorn as he seems up there, as forlorn was his attempt to gloss over the public discrimination in the face of the Chinese community: Five days later at least 93 % of Jakarta’s Chinese Indonesians voted against Fauzi Bowo a second time.


Of course the citizens of Jakarta did not solely get soaked up in campaign activities for one candidate or another. Many NGO’s from Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), over the Independent Committee for Election Monitoring (KIPP Komite Independen Pemantau Pemilu) to the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem Perkumpulan Untuk Pemilu dan Demokrasi) were active in observing the ongoing process. They monitored the work of the local election commission (KPUD) and the state-directed committee for election supervision (PANWAS) and reported critically to the media, when necessary. They organized numerous political debates for the public, held trainings for the municipalities’ administrative staff involved in the election process, and put large efforts into voter education.

One prime example of their efforts is a public awareness campaign organised and supported by a number of local, national and international NGOs in cooperation with several groups of Jakarta’s street artists. In a number of strategic places in the city graffities addressing election related problems were put up under the title Street Art Peduli Pilkada Jakarta (Street Art Care About Jakarta’s Local Election). The three examples in the photographs from Central Jakarta read:

Vote carefully, so you don’t regret it later.

Don’t you bribe the citizens with that money to vote for you.

The third example is difficult to interpret correctly as it contains several double meanings. It was not included in a digital street art catalogue along with the other pictures. Quite likely this is because both depicted figures wear traditional Betawi clothing and the traditional Muslim headcover peci, the figure to the left has some resemblance with Fauzi Bowo. Both symbolism and text contain references to Satan. The sentence in the bottom reads “Together, let’s destroy Jakarta!!!”. The combination of these details seems rather radical and not quite in line with the ambition of the project to use art as an educational tool against the negative excesses of the campaigns.

Serrum – an art forum dedicated to use art as educational tool and main organiser of this street art campaign – kindly sent us their digital catalogue containing the remaining street art pieces. Previously this catalogue had also been exhibited online on Serrum’s website Now you can view the pdf document here:

Catalogue Street Art Peduli Pilkada Jakarta


In the following campaign videos you can get a final impression of how contrasting the approaches towards these two campaigns really were.

The first video by the Indonesian band Cameo Project is an adaption of the hit song “What makes you beautiful” by British boy band One Direction. The song was already highly popular in Jakarta at the time of the campaign. Cameo Project then rewrote the lyrics to tell about the problems of Jakarta and their hope in the candidates Jokowi and Basuki to overcome these. The music video depicts the narrative of the song. The story goes that the band had done this voluntarily and on their own initiative. Only after the song had become famous the campaign team started to officially use it for their purposes. This version of the YouTube video features English subtitles, which underlines that it was even successful enough to obtain some international interest. You can also read both the Indonesian lyrics and their English translation here:

It is the same song that was used for the flashmob performed by about 3.500 supporters of Jokowi and Basuki on the last day of campaigning, described earlier on in this article.

Following the initial success of this song, the campaign team also produced a short TV spot, in which Jokowi and Basuki perform together with Cameo Project, who are singing one of the campaign slogans Jakarta Baru, Harapan Baru, Wajah Baru (New Jakarta, New Hope, New Faces).

Again, the most widely spread campaign videos of Fauzi Bowo and Nachowi Ramli revealed a quite different picture. In the one-minute TV spot Jakarta Masa Depan (The Future Jakarta) you can witness a very professional and expensive animation of what a future Jakarta under Fauzi Bowo would look like. On the last day of campaigning (at the same time with Jokowi’s Flashmob and in parallel with handing out anti-Chinese campaign flyers), the team of Fauzi gave out DVDs with a more than 20!-minutes long version of this supermodern, extravagant, utopian and highly expensive vision of Jakarta.

The videos entitled Foke-Nara INSYA ALLAH Nomor 1 untuk 1 Putaran and Fauzi Bowo Nachrowi Bersatu Jakarta Indon.Subs also serve as typical examples of Fauzi Bowo’s campaign spots. All exactly one minute long, they were designed as costly TV spots, not as low-cost social media virus. And they bear the handwriting of one of Indonesia’s most successful advertisement gurus / new political marketing experts – Ipang Wahid. As mentioned earlier on, in the first of those two videos you mostly see scenes skillfully cut together from the largest campaign event of the first election round in order to create the impression of large crowds of supporters. However, both videos are generally rather similar in terms of music and imagery: they both contain passages where the Fauzi is speaking in a soft and friendly voice; they both contain references towards Allah in the song lyrics; they both contain images of a united Jakarta population living happily together and celebrating their candidates Fauzi and Nara. These videos were specifically designed to counter the negative image of Fauzi Bowo as an arrogant, distant and stiff person, short tempered, impatient, unfriendly and rarely smiling.

Ironically, their professional outlook might have partly worked against their very purpose, if you compare them with another campaign video by Jokowi-Basuki. In Bukan Putera Dewa (Not the Son of a God) both the lyrics and the imagery portray Jokowi with the humbleness and unpretentiousness, he is famous for. Most of the scenes are taken from “real” campaign events, meaning they were not shot specifically for this video. Generally, they appear to be more genuine and less constructed in direct comparison with Fauzi’s videos. The technically much less sophisticated filming and cutting techniques actually underscore the message meant to be send.

Looking back into Fauzi Bowo’s videos, they seem neither humble nor completely authentic, not least because of their polished, professional style.


By now you might have wondered what all of this costs. Just to provide you with a brief insight, in the last two pictures you can see the summary page of the two teams’ official campaign budget reports. These legally required budget reports only need to cover the two-weeks official campaign phase during the first election round. The law does not explicitly require a campaign budget report for the second election round.

Hence, these figures cover about two weeks of legal campaign expenses for each team. The figure for Jokowi-Basuki reaches 16,089,431,757 IDR (approx. 1.7 million US$ at the time of campaigning). The figure for Fauzi-Nara reaches 61,874,182,486 IDR (approx. 6.5 million US$ at the time of campaigning). They both do not include any expenses during the months leading up to this short official campaign phase directly ahead of the election on 11th July 2012 – let alone for the more than two months to follow before the second election on 20th September.

Moreover, these figures only cover expenses directly related to campaign activities (such as stage events, face-to-face campaigning, TV debates) or campaign material (advertisements in print media, TV and radio, posters, stickers, shirts etc.). They do not cover any service-related expenses, such as payments for any of the dozens of official campaign team members involved full-time for several months, or the expensive services provided by the numerous political consulting and survey companies in the field. Needless to say they do not cover any of the illegal or “grey area” campaign expenses, such as for vote-buying, “motivational encouragement” to make the members of the nominating parties go out and do their work as foot soldiers of the campaign, getting parties and other organisations or celebrities to support the candidate in the first place, financial or logistical support for any of the hundreds of volunteer networks mushrooming across the city, bribing influential newspaper editors to give a final touch to the articles, paying journalists to provide insider information, financing the black campaigning in the social media, and so on and so forth.


Now, what do these two election campaigns and their results tell us about the state and the future of Indonesian politics?

The fact that Fauzi-Nara still obtained 46.18% in the second election round – under different circumstances a quite respectable result – suggests that traditional strongman politics still work very well, particularly if there is simply no convincing and strong enough alternative candidate to challenge this kind of politics and campaigning.

However, Jokowi’s success with his campaign style (and his previous performance as Mayor of Solo) has already turned out to be much more than just a one hit wonder of one electoral competition. The “phenomenon Jokowi” – as it is called in Indonesia by now – has triggered the imitation of parts of his campaign style all across Indonesia. Candidates even go as far to try to portray themselves as the Jokowi of regency X or Y. The Indonesian term merakyat (to mingle with the common people) has almost become synonymous with him. For many months already, he is heading in nationwide surveys for next year’s upcoming presidential election. His own and even rival parties, who had been attacking him until recently, now slowly open up to the idea of nominating him as their presidential candidate. At the moment it merely seems a matter of strategic timing when his candidacy will be announced.

If he will really run, his chances of winning are very high, because with his approach Joko Widodo hits the nerve of a population that is tired of being treated as “floating mass” – the passive subjects of the state’s agency – something which has not fundamentally changed with Indonesian democratisation 15 years ago. If he succeeds to transform his campaign style into realpolitik, of course, is another matter and needs to be discussed elsewhere.


By Vera Altmeyer, Associated PhD Student, NIAS.

I would like to thank my colleagues at NIAS, who not only sparked the idea for this exhibition, but have also been enormously supportive throughout my research process and preparation of this exhibition. NIAS and NIAS Linc are also the sponsors of the physical exhibition accompanying this online version at the Faculty Library of Social Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Gothergade 140, 1123 Copenhagen K, room 01-1-11. It will run from 30. May to 31. August 2013.

Vera Altmeyer is PhD candidate at the University of Hamburg, Germany and associated PhD candidate at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS), Denmark.

For her PhD project she focuses on election campaigns as the core arena of political power contestation in a democracy. The research aims to investigate how recent changes of institutiones and actors involved in campaigning influence the power relations between key actors in the national and local political sphere of Indonesia. More broadly it should also be considered how this affects the wider political economy behind election campaigns and ultimately impacts on the democratisation process of the country.

For this particular case study Vera has done field research from May to October 2012. All the photographs shown in this article are taken by the author. Copyright belongs to Vera Altmeyer and if you want to use any of the pictures please contact her at

Lady Gaga and the Fake Rolex Affair

By Anya Palm

This weekend’s big event in Bangkok was a concert with the colorful pop artist, Lady Gaga. The star is doing her “Born This Way Ball” 2012 tour in Asia, and while Lady Gaga is in the region purely to perform and entertain, her visit has stirred quite a bit of political attention.

Most notably, she may be banned from performing in Jakarta, Indonesia next month due to her revealing costumes, which according to the Indonesian police will “corrupt” young fans.  She is currently in a dispute with Indonesian authorities on whether or not she will get a permit to perform there next month.

That was expected though. Indonesia, as well as disturbingly many other places, does have powerful religious hardliners with little understanding of modern pop culture.  And Lady Gaga is no wallflower.

But in Bangkok, something a little more subtle – and in a way considerably more significant – happened.

Upon arriving to Bangkok the night before her show, Lady Gaga tweeted to her 24 million fans on twitter:

“I just landed in Bangkok baby! Ready for 50,000 screaming Thai monsters. I wanna get lost in a lady market and buy fake Rolex.”

The comment offended her Thai fans. A lot.

“She came to our home, but instead of admiring us she insulted us”, said one commenter, while another sarcastically retorted: “I’m sure there are plenty of fake Gaga CDs, too.”

“We are more civilized than you think,” tweeted Surahit Siamwalla, a well-known Thai DJ. He declared that he, despite owning a ticket, would boycott her show.

 Lady Gaga will probably survive that.

But the reaction is interesting – there ARE a lot of fake Rolexes floating around Bangkok, and the city IS famous for counterfeit products. This is no secret. Why can’t she say that out loud?

Not too long ago, it was Angelina Jolie that was the subject of the Thai wrath. She had gotten herself a tattoo in Thailand, a religious symbol, and the Thai authorities felt that the actress disrespected a sacred image by inking up. So they went ahead and banned tourists from getting “sacred images” as tattoos altogether. Before that, the Hollywood blockbuster “Hangover in Bangkok” was scorned for giving Thailand a bad reputation, because the movie revolves around a drunken night, set in Bangkok.

But the reputation that Thailand has – for being a counterfeit haven and for being a party-city with red-light districts a plenty – has nothing to do with Gaga, Hollywood or Jolie.

It has to do with a corrupt and useless police force. It has to do with an incompetent, nepotistic government. It has to do with a collective state of mind of “problems are never MY fault”.

Acting angry and insulted will not stop the sale of fake Rolexes in Bangkok, nor will it do any good to the country’s reputation.

What will then? Putting down the coffee mug and start dealing with problems so obvious that even a passing-through pop star mentions them will.

“Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing Left To Lose?” – West Papua Declares its Independence, Again

Author: Henri Myrttinen[1]


On October 19, 2011, in a sports field outside the Papuan provincial capital Jayapura, a solemn declaration was read, proclaiming the independence of West Papua, the restoration of its national symbols, the formation of a new government, the introduction of new national languages and of the Dutch New Guinea Guilder as the new currency.[2] The meeting, the Third Papuan Congress, was soon broken up by Indonesian security forces – with excessive violence. At the end of the afternoon three, possibly six Papuan civilians were dead, several dozen badly beaten, around 300 detained and the six leaders-to-be of the newly proclaimed state arrested, facing charges of treason. While the police remain adamant that they did no wrong and had to respond to an act of secession, the Indonesian government is under pressure from national and international human rights bodies to carry out credible investigations.

The proclamation and violent crackdown by the Indonesian security forces highlighted one of the key issues simmering beneath the surface in the two provinces which make up the western half of the world’s second largest island (the eastern half of the island being part of Papua New Guinea). It was, however, not the only issue keeping the territory in the spotlight. At the time of the Congress, one of the biggest and most sustained industrial actions in recent Indonesian history was into its fifth week at the world’s biggest gold and copper mine in Grasberg, several hundred kilometres away, with a death toll of eight people and no sign of abating.[3] Though not politically motivated, the strike has severely reduced the output at the mine, Indonesia’s largest taxpayer, and thus concentrated minds in the capital. The police, in the meantime, have been politically embarrassed by revelations of having received several million USD over the years in what the national police chief called ‘lunch money’ from PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), the company operating the Grasberg mine. PTFI has in the past admitted to paying the Indonesian armed forces for protection as well.

A few days later, the police chief in a restive Highlands district of Papua was shot dead in broad daylight, with a fringe group of the Free Papua Organisation (Organisasi Papua Merdeka – OPM) claiming responsibility. While the OPM, which has been waging a small-scale armed struggle for around 45 years, does not present a military threat to Indonesia, the high-profile killing was a stark reminder of the tenacity of this struggle and of the motivating factors behind it.

While these events have mostly not made the headlines in Europe, for the first time in a long time, the media and political elite in the Indonesian capital Jakarta have seriously awoken to the fact that the special autonomy packages passed a decade ago have not solved the conflicts in the two easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua.

West Papuan villagers in Matefa village in consultation with a local NGO. (Photo by the author).

Background to the conflict, 1965-2001

A good point in time to begin with looking at the political conflict in Tanah Papua, the Land of Papua as the two Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua are jointly know as, is exactly 50 years to the day before the Third Papuan Congress. Though views on the exact date differ as to when the demands were actually made, a declaration was passed by the First Papuan Congress on 19 October, 1961 demanding that the territory be renamed West Papua, its inhabitants be called Papuans and new national symbols be accepted alongside the Dutch ones.[4]

The demands were made to the colonial government of Netherlands West New Guinea. The Dutch had retained control of the western part of New Guinea after acceding to the independence of the rest of its colonies in what was then termed the East Indies. The newly formed Republic of Indonesia was adamant that the territory be incorporated into the republic while the Dutch government initially insisted on holding on to the colony. By 1961, however, the winds of decolonisation were blowing strong against any remaining Dutch hopes of permanently holding on to West New Guinea.

Regardless of whether it was actually the First Papuan Congress which made these demands and the exact point in time when they were made, by 1 December, 1961, the Dutch government had accepted the demands. The territory was renamed West Papua, the new ‘Morning Star’ (Bintang Kejora) flag was flown alongside the Dutch flag outside the building of the New Guinea Council and the new Papuan national hymn, Hai Tanahku Papua, was played after the Dutch Wilhelmus anthem. Though in popular Papuan political thought, this occasion has become re-cast as the declaration of independence, this is not strictly true – independence was to occur after 10-20 years of Dutch tutelage.

The reaction of the Indonesian government was swift: President Sukarno denounced the display of Papuan national symbols and the inauguration of the Nieuw-Guinea Raad as a Dutch colonial ploy that attempted to deny Indonesia’s claims to the territory. In his Trikora (Tri Komando Rakyat – The Three Commands of the People) speech, Sukarno made the incorporation of the territory into the Republic of Indonesia one of the paramount objectives of Indonesian policy.

Though officially this was to be an effort of ‘the people,’ in practice the initial efforts consisted of unsuccessful small-scale military incursions. Where the military failed, though, diplomacy triumphed. Fearing the growing influence of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI – Partai Komunis Indonesia), the US government pressured the Netherlands to agree to a transfer of sovereignty under the auspices of the United Nations to Indonesia.

The transfer, under the auspices of the United Nations, was a long and highly contentious one, with the first instances of armed Papuan resistance against Indonesian rule emerging in 1964, events which the still-active OPM sees as its founding moment. The seven-year transition ended in 1969 with a ‘plebiscite’ by 1 025 Papuan elders hand-picked by Indonesian administrators.[5] All voted in favour, sealing the integration of the territory, which was renamed Irian Jaya, into the Indonesian Republic.

As in other ‘backward’ parts of Indonesia, the newly-installed government of General Soeharto began an ambitious project of modernisation, urbanisation and development. Apart from the opening of the Freeport gold and copper mine, this also included agricultural projects such as palm oil plantations, for which tens of thousands of ‘transmigrants’ as labour came into the territory from other parts of Indonesia. According to the official line, the ‘backward’ Papuan brothers and sisters, free now from the shackles of Dutch colonial power, were being accommodated into the development project of Suharto’s New Order and brought into the fold of the prosperous Indonesian family. There were, admittedly, some misguided elements who resisted this, but they would be either convinced by the fruits of development – or crushed.

In stark contrast to official Indonesian narratives of Tanah Papua’s integration, most local narratives are strongly shaped by what Herniawan and van den Broek (2001) call the Papuan ‘memoria passionis,’ a memory of suffering. These narratives are characterised by memories and the re-telling of stories military oppression, of torture, of murder, of sexual exploitation, of fear, of racism, of disrespect, of socio-economic marginalisation by the influx of economically more successful non-Papuans and of what is often perceived by indigenous Papuans to be a systematic campaign of attempts by the central government to destroy the Papuan nation.[6] These fears are exacerbated by widespread Papuan disquiet over the impacts of increased migration from other parts of Indonesia. As many, though not all migrants are Muslims and most, though not all Papuans are Christians, there is often a thinly-veiled fear of ‘Islamisation’ in Papuan discussions of the impacts of migration.

The fall of the Suharto regime in 1998 raised Papuan hopes of a new deal, perhaps even of a Timor-Leste style referendum on the status of the territory. The initial reaction of the Indonesian security forces to such calls was harsh, and at least several dozen Papuan demonstrators were killed on the island of Biak in July 1998 following the raising of the Morning Star flag. With Abdurrahman Wahid, aka Gus Dur taking over the Indonesian presidency in 1999, however, the stance of the central government became more conciliatory. The Morning Star flag was approved as an official Papuan ‘cultural symbol’ to be used alongside the Indonesian flag, the province was renamed Papua and President Wahid even contributed personal funds for organising the Second Papuan Congress in 2000. In 2001, the Special Autonomy (Otonomi Khusus – or Otsus) package for Papua was passed, later extended to the province of West Papua after this was controversially split off by decree of Wahid’s successor, President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Special Autonomy and Discontent

In the roughly ten years since the passing of the Law on Special Autonomy, indigenous Papuan representation at all levels of the executive in the two provinces has increased, powers have been devolved from the central government and unprecedented sums of money have flowed to the two provinces. Nonetheless, it is often hard to find indigenous Papuans outside state administration who see Otsus as a success. Opposition to special autonomy has grown increasingly vocal and in 2010 a coalition of local civil society organisations symbolically ‘returned’ the law to the Indonesian government, deeming it a ‘total failure’ and demanding a thorough review. These calls were echoed by a wide coalition of Papuan churches in early 2011.

This discontent is fuelled by various widespread discourses: the increased influx of funds is generally seen to have only benefited a small local elite while large sections of the indigenous population continue to live in poverty; the central government has been seen as torpedoing Papuan efforts at self-governance; migration remains high stoking fears of marginalisation and key demands such as the use of Papuan symbols have been revoked. While some of the Papuan critique of Otsus is overblown (or, more precisely, often presented with rhetorical hyperbole), special autonomy has clearly not worked as well as for example in Aceh, with actors at all levels of state administration not living up to high expectations.

Criticism of the status quo has been dangerous in the past, especially in the Suharto years, when it could lead to being labelled as being separatist or subversive, a label which could mean imprisonment or death. Although the situation has improved greatly, the political atmosphere in Papua and West Papua nonetheless remains more stifling than in the rest of Indonesia. Public displays of the Morning Star flag or calls for ‘merdeka’ (freedom) often, though not always, can lead to lengthy prison sentences for subversion.[7] Intimidation of activists and journalists working on less controversial issues such as environmental degradation, land grabbing or corruption is not uncommon. Access for foreign researchers, NGOs or media is heavily curtailed.

The growing discontent over the political settlement has been flanked, especially since 2009, by a marked upturn in violence. This violence has had numerous causes, ranging from groups affiliated to the OPM battling the security forces, local tribal conflicts, localised political and economic power struggles to millenarian religious movements (see for example ICG, 2010 for a partial overview). Many of the most high profile cases such as a series of lethal shootings along the road to the Freeport mine have remained unsolved. Increasingly, many civil society representatives in Papua and West Papua also raise the fear of violent communal conflicts both between indigenous Papuans and migrants and amongst Papuans themselves. What is often striking is how differently representatives of the Indonesian state and most Papuans I have talked to see the violence. While the official Indonesian view tends to blame either the OPM or other presumed separatists, many Papuans are inclined to see more sinister forces at work, suspecting Indonesian security forces of staging incidents to justify their lucrative presence and a repression of Papuan political aspirations.

New palm oil plantations in Kebar, West Papua. Photo by the author.

Searching for solutions

While the discontent with the status quo has been steadily growing and the number of violent incidents have been on the rise, a twin initiative by a prominent Papuan theologian, Neles Tebay, and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, LIPI, has sought to find a way out of the impasse (see Tebay, 2009 and Widjojo, 2009).[8] The approach advocates a dialogue between ‘Jakarta’ and ‘Papua,’ i.e. the central government and Papuan representatives, based on a Road Map which advocates for addressing issues of socio-economic marginalisation, re-visiting the divergent views on the integration of Tanah Papua with Indonesia and accountability for past human rights violations. In spite of opposition from nationalists from both sides, the initiative has been slowly gaining traction. A Papua Peace Network has been conducting a series of public discussions in both provinces on the initiative and a peace conference in July 2011 brought together representatives of the central government and Papuan society.

What the declaration of independence and the resurgence of violence will mean for the delicate process of finding a negotiated solution to the multiple problems facing Tanah Papua remains to be seen. As with so many other issues, the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been slow to react to the challenges in the two easternmost provinces. If nothing else, the violent events of the past few weeks have at least added urgency to the process.


Drooglever, Pieter, 2005. Een Daad van Vrije Keuze: De Papoea’s van westelijk Nieuw-Guinea en de grenzen van het zelfbeschikkingsrecht, Amsterdam

Hernawan, Budi and van den Broek, Theo, 2001. Memoria Passionis Di Papua – Kondisi Sosial Politik dan Hak Asasi Manusia. Jayapura: SKP

ICG, 2010. Radicalisation and Dialogue in Papua, Asia Report Nº188. Brussels/Jakarta: International Crisis Group

Leith, Denise, 2003. The Politics of Power – Freeport n Suharto’s Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press

Saltford, John, 2002. The United Nations and the Indonesian Takeover of West Papua, 1962-1969: Anatomy of a Betrayal. London: Routledge

Tebay, Neles, 2009. Dialog Jakarta-Papua. Sebuah Perspektif Papua, Jayapura: SKP

Widjojo, Muridan, 2009. Papua Road Map. Jakarta: LIPI

[1] The author is a post-doctoral stipend at NIAS and will be presenting a paper titled “By The Rivers Of Babylon …” – Israel, Merdeka and the Magic of the Promised Land in Papuan Political Thought at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Anthropologists in Montreal in November 2011.

[2] There is a certain amount of potential confusion surrounding the names used to refer to the western part of the island of New Guinea. The area is divided into the two Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, which were previously the province of Irian Jaya, later renamed Papua. Somewhat confusingly, both in Papuan society and outside, both provinces are often lumped together either as ‘Papua’ or ‘West Papua’ (Papua Barat). In an effort to avoid confusion, I will use the terms West Papua and Papua to refer to the respective provinces and the adjective ‘Papuan’ as pertaining to social, political, economic, cultural, etc. dynamics within the indigenous community in both provinces. I will use the term Tanah Papua (Land of Papua) to refer to the area covered by the two provinces jointly. The discussion of what constitutes the indigenous Papuan community is a rather tricky one, though, but unfortunately one which will need to be discussed elsewhere

[3] The Grasberg mine is operated by the Indonesian subsidiary of the US-based mining company Freeport McMoRan and was opened after the neighbouring Ertsberg mine was depleted in the late 1980s. For a critical history of the mine during the Suharto years, see Leith (2003)

[4] While many refer to the 19 October, 1961, as being the date of the First Congress, others place this a few months later (December 1961) or in the case of Saltford (2003) even a year to 19 October, 1962.

[5] For detailed accounts of the Act of Free Choice, see Drooglever, 2005 and Saltford, 2003

[6] It is not unusual for Papuan activists to refer to a ‘genocide,’ a claim which solidarity activists abroad have also sought to prove. For an interesting comment on the pro’s and cons of the debate, see Richard Chauvel’s commentary in Inside Indonesia 97/2009 at

[7] It should be noted, though, that while merdeka is often translated as meaning ‘freedom’ or ‘independence,’ local understandings are often far broader, ranging from freedom from want and fear to spiritual liberation in a religious sense, or even, amongst more eschatological Christians, linked to the Second Coming of Christ

[8] An abridged English language version of the Papua Road Map is available online at

The decentralisation process in Indonesia and its impact on the agricultural sector / by Tobias Axelsson

The thesis “Peasants and policymakers : agricultural transformation in Java under Suharto” shows that Indonesia commenced a transformation process but did not see it through, resulting in an economy more investment-driven than agriculturally-led. Inspired by the East Asian model, the thesis focuses on three core areas within the agricultural transformation process. Firstly, yields and labour productivity whereby it is shown that the principal source of productivity growth was through land augmenting policies. More interestingly, it is shown that labour productivity increased steeply between 1977 and 1984 only to slow down thereafter.

The second issue discussed in the thesis is income. Though the focus is predominantly on agricultural income, an increasing proportion of the rural population is now deriving a significant part of their income from off-farm activities. It is shown here that the land holders’ income from rice increased dramatically in the early 1980s before levelling out. For landless labourers there was also an increase in income, again predominantly achieved in the early 1980s.

The final aspect, equity, is closely related to the other two and is measured using data on consumption, income and landholdings. In this chapter, a very interesting image appears, revealing a general pattern of agriculture stagnating from the second half of the 1980s onwards. In order to determine the reasons for this slowdown in the agricultural transformation process, a qualitative approach has been used. Interviews with farmers and public officials at a local level have been combined with extensive analyses of both local and national policy documents. It can be argued that the process stalled as a consequence of farmers being averse to change and modernity but this thesis shows that factors in the slowdown in change can in fact be found in actions by the state, as this was the driving force behind the transformation of agriculture. The thesis also shows that motives for change were urban rather than rural. In conclusion, the development process lacked the dynamic to generate its own growth, Javanese agriculture was still vulnerable and the country could not sustain the blow when the crisis hit in 1997.

Peasants and policymakers : agricultural transformation in Java under Suharto / Tobias Axelsson. – Lund : Lund University, 2008. – xii, 196 p. (Lund studies in economic history ; 45)

Link to thesis

University class turned peace process. Senior Reseacher Timo Kivimäki, NIAS

Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province has suffered from communal conflict and at the turn of the millennium the Indonesian province became infamous for two massive cannibalistic riots. While the massive violence has not continued there have been smaller violent incidents with several people killed every year. None of the conflict disputes have been solved either.  NIAS-led peace studies network on the ASEM Education Hub platform has been working in the areas offering teaching on conflict resolution and peace studies in several M.A. classes at the local Tanjungpura University. One of the classes has been targeted to the very same ethnic leaders who mobilized the mass riots and later tried to make peace with each other. On December 15th, this class stepped out of its educational platform and transferred itself into a peace process under the auspices of the vice president of Indonesia. This transition could offer a model for how purely academic work can serve the purpose of capacity building for peace and actual pre-negotiation for a peace process.


ASEM Peace Studies Network teaching in Kalimantan has been based on an assumption that while recognizing the expertise of local intellectuals in understanding the local conflict conditions, comparative research can still offer something to deepen this understanding. Every lecture starts with a general lecture based on comparative conflict studies, focused on a theme that is crucial for the understanding of the conflict in West Kalimantan. In a way the introduction of each lecture attempts to carry lessons from conflicts all over the world for the scrutiny in West Kalimantan. This has been my task. Next the local professor, Dr. Syarif I, Alqadrie has applied the global lessons to the Kalimantan context. In the third phase, the “students”, who, of course are the main actors in West Kalimantan conflict, elected leaders of ethnic associations of each major ethnic group from the five conflict-affected districts, discuss the Kalimantan experience trying to think what went wrong in the run-up to the conflict, and what should be done to prevent the conflict from escalating again. It is natural that in this process, a lot of practical negotiation takes place between the leaders of the main conflicting community leaders. However, a university class cannot pretend to be a negotiation venue: whatever the community leaders would accept in front of a European “Bule Gila” (crazy foreigner) will have little influence when objective interests run counter the commitments in an educational event. Yet, it would have been such a waste to keep the cooperation purely academic, and not to utilize the confidence built in the class, and the explicit consensus “pre-negotiated” around such crucial issues as how to prevent violent inter-ethnic crime from turning into communal conflict, how to help the police react quickly in the case of conflict triggering events by offering them community-base conflict early warning, and how to foster communication and confidence building between communities. During the year 2008 NIAS has worked on a solution that could help the situation.


Indonesia’s vice president is known for his expertise in conflict resolution. After “master-minding” three major peace processes in Indonesia, in Poso, Ambon and Aceh, he has also received a number of international offers for mediation of protracted conflicts. This is why it was natural for me to approach vice president’s able deputy for political affairs, Prof. Djohermansyah, who is also a conflict specialist, and a former student of the father of peace research, Norwegian Johan Galtung. Prof. Djohermansyah did not need much persuasion; he saw the potential of progress in West Kalimantan from the start. Preparations for the conversion of the ethnic leaders’ class into a permanent communication forum started in spring 2008. Finally, on December 15, Professor Djohermansyah joined the ASEM program, and took over the ethnic class, and inaugurated the West Kalimantan Ethnic Communication Forum. The inauguration ceremony was attended by public officials of the province on all levels of regional administration, as well as by the provincial police chief, all chiefs of the police districts. As expected, the inaugural meeting of West Kalimantan Ethnic Communication Forum reached agreements on many issues crucial for conflict prevention. The Pasir Panjang Declaration establishing the forum was signed by the ethnic leaders, the two initiators of the forum (Alqadrie and I) and the facilitator of the work of the forum, Prof. Djohermansyah. Furthermore, the forum decided on the principles of operation, conflict early warning cooperation with the provincial police, crisis management action (to be taken after a “triggering event” has taken place), work for the removal of root causes of conflict, and on the practical working forms and schedules of the forum. Many issues will be left for further meetings, but the fact that all the leaders of each of the conflict districts value the permanence of dialogue and problem solving between communities, is already a long step towards the right direction. Ethnic leaders are not all-mighty, conflict can of course happen even if these leaders opposed it. But with this cooperation it is unlikely, that these leaders mobilized the mobs and militias. It is also less likely, that ordinary people can mobilize ethnic sentiments for violent purposes if the respected ethnic leaders explicitly go against such mobilization. Even if there were youth groups who tried to frame an individual inter-ethnic criminal event in communal terms calling for a communal revenge, most members of the community would probably refrain and listen to their ethnic leaders instead of youth groups in the question of what ones communal affiliation and loyalty requires from them. While not able to resolve all conflict problems of the province, ethnic leaders are probably at best in defining what ethnicity can and cannot be used for. Thus a united stand by ethnic leaders against using ethnic loyalties for the mobilization of violence can be a meaningful contribution in the prevention of future conflict and in the resolving of old ones. The fact that a university class could spill overt this kind of united stand, proves that theory is practical and university collaboration can serve societies. There is nothing “merely academic” about purely academic work.