The Rise of Uncontested Elections in Indonesia: Case Studies of Pati and Jayapura
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 39, Number 3, December 2017
- pp. 427-448
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This article explains a new trend in Indonesian local politics: the rise of uncontested elections. We explore this trend by way of detailed examinations of two such elections in February 2017: the district head election in Pati, Central Java; and the mayoral election in Jayapura, Papua. In doing so, we consider explanations that have been advanced elsewhere, including those that focus on “scare-off effects” and incumbency advantages. Though such approaches are relevant, we show that there was a contrast between our two cases: in Pati, the strength of the incumbent and his wealthy running mate dissuaded rival candidates and parties from competing; in Jayapura, two other candidates wanted to run, and even secured backing from local party branches, but their candidacies were annulled after legal challenges. If the first pathway showed a process of broad-based elite bargaining producing a “win-win solution”, in Jayapura the pathway involved a zero-sum-game contest between rival elites. Despite these differences, in both cases there was competition between local elites, but it happened prior to the election. Overall, we argue the rise of uncontested elections points to growing elite entrenchment in local politics.