Politics of Ideas
Political parties can no longer just answer the question "How to win the electoral competition," but they must also be able to answer "How power is monitored and for whom power is managed."
Until the sixth post-reformation elections, the electoral contest had not moved away from the politics of power in Machiavelli's and Thomas Hobbes' terminology.
According to Machiavelli, power has autonomy separate from morality, so seizing and maintaining power can be done by any means necessary. Hobbes believed that humans are wolves to other humans (homo homini lupus). Therefore, the state must become a Leviathan, a predatory creature that is feared so that humans do not prey on each other.
The politics of power displayed by the parties in the election may not be as ruthless as Machiavelli and Hobbes depicted. However, the indications are strong enough to assert that the orientation toward the politics of power is far more dominant than the politics of ideas.
Using the terminology of democracy, if the politics of power is about how power is seized and managed, then the politics of ideas is about how power is monitored and for whose interests power is managed.
The orientation toward politics of power has already led up to the 2024 election, especially since 2022 with the presidential election. The Nasdem Party, along with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Democratic Party, was the first to declare their presidential candidate, Anies Baswedan on 3 Oct. 2022.
The frenzy surrounding the presidential and vice presidential candidates is heating up. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) finally declared Ganjar Pranowo as their presidential candidate on 21 April 2023. Prabowo Subianto and Airlangga Hartarto are other candidates also enlivening the competition.
The major political parties are busy building alliances to win the election. Survey institutions also contribute by providing the electability of each candidate, presidential (capres) and vice-presidential candidates (cawapres).
These alliances are predicted not to be permanent, depending on the interests of each alliance.
The politics of ideas is absent from the above hustle and bustle. Until the presidential candidates become clearer, the competition toward the RI-1 (Indonesia's presidency) is still focused on "how to win the battle." There are hardly any big ideas for Indonesia's next five years, on political parties or candidates.
What exists are alliances: the Coalition of Change for Unity (KPP), the United Indonesia Coalition (KIB), and the Great Indonesia Awakening Coalition (KIR). These alliances are predicted not to be permanent, depending on the interests of each alliance.
There is still a campaign period from 28 Nov. 2023 to 10 Feb. 2024. However, as with previous campaigns, the delivery of ideas regarding "how power is managed and for whose interests" is usually only present in candidate debates. Outside of the candidate debates, campaigns hardly touch on ideas. Campaign materials focus more on image-building rather than ideas.
The major political parties seem to recognize that winning the election is determined by their ability to understand the character of the voters. The absence of public education about the citizens' political rights keeps the voters focused on two types: emotional voters and transactional voters.
Emotional voters determine their choice based on personal closeness, kinship, as well as ideological and background closeness: religion, culture and regionalism. This is what keeps identity politics preserved, produced and endlessly reproduced. Transactional voters are more based on pragmatic needs and short-term interests. The saying "how much money" seems to be a common refrain. Thus, money politics becomes a perpetual trend.
There are rational voters based on ideas and how those ideas are carried out to fruition. However, as with previous elections, political parties almost never pay attention to rational voters.
Their small number makes them considered non-existent, so the agenda to attract rational voters never becomes a party priority. The voices of rational voters are quite strong, but they are considered inadequate as determinants of victory.
This condition is what makes political parties (and their candidates) more focused on power politics than idea politics. Power politics provides more certainty about the benefits that will be gained by their group. On the contrary, idea politics is always oriented toward the public good, not individual or group interests. Unsurprisingly, idea politics is always sidelined (or deliberately sidelined) in political contestation.
Millennials and Gen Z Voters
Facing the 2024 election, political parties and their candidates can no longer continue to rely on power orientation because the election is determined by how far they can win the hearts of millennial and Gen Z voters.
The combination of millennial and Gen Z votes is predicted to reach 70 percent of the total voter turnout in 2024. Whether realized or not, the millennial and Gen Z groups are the determinants of victory in elections.
The survey results from Kompas Gramedia Research and Analysis in collaboration with Kompas Research and Development (Litbang Kompas) show high enthusiasm among millennials (born between 1981-1996) and Gen Zers (born between 1997-2012) to participate in the 2024 election. As many as 86.7 percent said they were willing to participate in the election, while 10.7 percent were still considering it and 2.6 percent refused to participate in the electoral process (released on 8 April 2022).
The Litbang Kompas survey specifically targets Gen Z (released on 2 Nov. 2022). Gen Z has a positive impression of political parties compared to other generations. As many as 52.1 percent of this generation view political party images positively.
More than half of Gen Z have hopes for these institutions to strengthen their performance. These results show that Gen Z is no longer following the trend of emotional and transactional voters.
The results of a survey by Aksara Research and Consulting released on 21 Dec. 2022, show a similar trend. Enthusiasm to participate in the 2024 election is quite high.
As many as 70.7 percent of respondents stated that they would use their voting rights in the 2024 election. However, the high electoral participation of young people in the 2024 election is inversely proportional to their desire to affiliate with political parties. "Only 13.6 percent of young people expressed interest in becoming members of political parties," said Hendri Kurniawan, executive director of Aksara Research and Consulting.
Therefore, millennial and Gen Z voters have different characteristics than emotional or transactional voters. Although not exact, they tend to be closer to rational voters than emotional and transactional voters.
The political parties can no longer maintain power politics in elections. There must be serious efforts to shift to idea politics that prioritize specific and measurable political agendas for the next five years.
It is time for political parties to undergo a radical renewal to face these changes.
Political parties can no longer just answer the question "How to win the electoral competition," but they must also be able to answer "How power is monitored and for whom power is managed." The party's response will determine where the choices of the millennials and Gen Z will land. The presence of millennials and Gen Z as the largest group of voters is an undeniable challenge.
Millennials and Gen Z have vastly different characteristics from the previous generations. They are starting to break free from the primordial ties that often influence emotional voters; they also dare to reject money politics, which is the basis of transactional voters. They are relatively more open, critical and innovative, so political parties must plan strategically to win the hearts of millennials and Gen Z.
It is time for political parties to undergo a radical renewal to face these changes. Otherwise, they will be left behind by the millennials and the Gen Z.
Agus Muhammad, Director Deputy of the Association of Islamic Boarding School and Society Development (P3M), Jakarta
This article was translated by Tenggara Strategics.