The meeting between Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and his presumptive successor Anies Baswedan on Thursday seemed to settle the dust after their fierce battle the previous day. More than that, however, the encounter will pave the way for a smooth transition until Anies takes office in October.
For one, the reconciliatory gesture of the two Jakarta election contenders set a good precedent for democratic practice in local politics, particularly in Jakarta, where animosity between supporters of candidates was visible over the past four months. Through the dialogue, both Ahok and Anies will not only help Jakarta heal its wounds but also ascertain how the change of guard will keep public services running undisturbed.
There is no legislation or regulation governing a transition from an outgoing to incoming regional head, especially if the power is transferred to a rival politician. If Jakarta is to raise its democratic standard, which is a necessity due to its strategic role as the epicenter of national politics, consultation between a current leader and the successor, either formal or informal, should be considered.
At the national level, then president-elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who came from two rival camps in the 2014 presidential election, set an example, albeit not yet ideal, of how government should be transferred. Anies happened to be part of Jokowi’s transition team, while Ahok would fill the shoes of Jokowi as Jakarta governor back then.
First and foremost, as an outgoing governor, Ahok’s job, in his final six months in office, is to complete the programs he started, but refrain from making strategic policies, such as a reshuffle of key government officials, which could undermine his successor’s realization of his campaign platform.
Anies and Ahok discussed the city budget during their initial meeting on Thursday as the former requires fiscal space between October and December to materialize some of his campaign promises. There should be a chance for the new governor to revise the city budget to allow him to start his own programs.
On the other hand, the transition period will give Anies enough time to learn the nuts and bolts of Jakarta bureaucracy and how it works, if necessary from Ahok himself. A regime change does not necessarily prompt a new leader to start from scratch just to appear different from the preceding government.
One of Ahok’s legacies that many have acknowledged is transparency that unfortunately eludes many local governments. Electronic tender for goods and service procurement, which the Jakarta government has initiated, has curbed corrupt practices and boosted efficiency.
A system based on merit is another trademark of the Ahok administration, in which government posts are filled through fair selection. Professional bureaucracy will not only accelerate and improve public services but also avoid wasting the city budget.
The public expects the leadership change will mark a transition from good to better governance.