Politics tarnished Jakarta's Car Free Day two weeks ago. Using the masses are a setback to democracy.
A healthy democracy is a democracy that is filled with arguments and ideas-based persuasion-not mass confrontations. Politics should be a battleground for ideas and political visioning. However, while the 2019 presidential election grows near, we have seen the masses mobilized at every opportunity to deliver insults against their opponents-this is a disease that is afflicting our democracy.
This type of politics inevitably exploits all outdoor public events, including the Car Free Day. The carfree day incident in Jalan Sudirman-Thamrin two weeks ago could not have been avoided. It should have been a day for Jakartans to relax and enjoy a day free from air pollution, but instead the day became "polluted" by politics, rife with unrestrained mockery, sarcasm, harassment and provocation.
Both camps are culpable, with each monopolizing parts of the carfree areas, which should have been accessible to everyone. The group sporting the #2019GantiPresident (new president in 2019) hashtag congregated in their own area, while those with the #DiaSibukKerja (he/the President is busy working) hashtag gathered in another corner. When a mother and her child walked through their "opponent's" zone, they were targeted and ridiculed.
Conflict between the #2019GantiPresiden and the #DiaSibukKerja camps was already predictable from the start. It would have been difficult to avoid a clash since both groups opted for mass rallying and mobilization, using popular hashtags that clearly oversimply matters. Politicians who promote such hashtags are equally guilty in promoting ignorance and creating a political atmosphere deficient in ideas.
Mass mobilizations and hashtag battles are worrying as they simply rely on brawn and crowd psychology. Political ethics and reasoning tend to be left out, which means horizontal clashes and conflicts are only a matter of time.
Law enforcement must therefore not remain silent. The police should not fear increasingly aggressive mass actions meant to intimidate. Furthermore, the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) must also intervene. The agency can perhaps start by monitoring the use of political attire in public spaces. In regard to the recent carfree day, Bawaslu should have reminded everyone involved to respect Governor Regulation No. 12/2016 on Car Free Day, which explicitly prohibits political activities in the carfree zones.
We must never repeat mistakes made in the era of mass mobilization of the 1960s, when the nation was divided and susceptible to provocation. Indonesians wasted their energy on slogan wars and demagogic lectures. Aggressive banners riddled demonstrations and racial provocations were a daily spectacle. Let these dark memories be a thing of the past.
Today, what we want is a democracy that grows from mature reasoning. We yearn for political leaders to engage in debates using artful and logical arguments built on accurate data. Political rhetoric must not be measured based on how masses are rallied on the streets, but rather on the quality of such debates.