Thursday, September 04, 2008

In Defense of Eko Patrio

Saiful Mujani of LSI and Freedom Institute worried that the comedian Eko Patrio might win over the economist Didiek Rachbini for a legislative seat. He wrote in a column in Tempo weekly:
In this case, the skill to make people laugh is electorally more valuable than the Professor's economics expertise. The problem is that Eko, in comparison to Didiek, maybe way more familiar to the voters in general. Although Didiek is more competent for legislation, voters do not know him and his competency. Voter's cognitive and behavior, or political market, determine the politician's political fate.
He also proposes more regulation on the law on general election to include competency, expertise background, and integrity requirement for lawmaker candidates in order to fix the current political market.

I am no political scientist. But I think Saiful made a wrong comparison here. The game is not about less competent Eko against more competent Didiek Rachbini. For voters, it is about Eko (and his celebrities friends) against those hundreds of unfamiliar, (more) incompetent and yet corrupt politicians that now occupy Senayan --to whom many voters share the disgust.

I'd say perhaps the current political market works. It drives the unfamiliar and incompetent politicians out. And arguably they might be less corrupt than the existing politicians for a good reason: the cost of getting caught is very high for them, that is, not only the five-years political career, but also their lucrative lifetime celebrity career. As public figures, they are also subject to more closer public scrutiny --think of those bloody annoying gossip shows.

Voters might be rationally ignorant, but maybe not that stupid. And on the idea that the celebrities candidacy breaks the party's internal reward mechanism for their 'real' politicians, you should ask those party leaders (themselves the 'real' politicians) why on earth they recruit Eko and friends on the first place --if they think they will be out-voted.

And trust me, Eko will not easily win because his opponents, the current 'real' politicians, are equally, if not more, funny in their own way.


  1. I think, the problem is we dont know what is the preference of people. since the popularity of DPR is going low (it was also opinion if there are no data about that), may be eko patrio will win...

    A social scientist said that, who will win? is also depend on the level of political education of the society

    Syaiful Mujani maybe right and may be wrong..

    It's just politic..

  2. Fakhrul, I am not that skeptical on the use of social science in understanding politics. Politics, like any other social phenomena, has pattern. And a whole range of political theories and sciences are serious methods to observe and get some ideas, some say predictions, on politics, politicians, and voters out of that pattern.

    The problem is that many of us tend to dismiss those serious attempts because they confuse political practice (as experienced as a citizen) and political science (which is a result of methodological thinking and rigorous training on the object of political practice).

    Don't let your disgust to our politicians stop you from learning the science, then.

  3. Zal,
    A Golkar legislator candidate of the Jakarta electoral expresses his anxious. He said it is far better not getting parliament seat because I lose it from Dradjat Wibowo (an economist and MP from PAN)- I’m defeated with dignity. But it is a real shame if I lose it because of Mandra (a comedian), how could I explain this to my children then? As a matter of fact, Mandra replaces Dradjat Wibowo’s candidacy from PAN.;)

  4. Yudo, kindly tell your politician friend to advertise himself on TV or a large billboard in Bundaran HI. Make sure that it has shocking tag lines. Something like: Vote me, I am funnier than Mandra, guaranteed.

    Then he/she still has a big chance to beat Mandra, if it is that important for him/her.

    Oh before that, make sure he/she should pay me for this piece of advice, OK? :-))

  5. Nice...I feel like reading the freakonomics...