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Celebrity, election and politics in Indonesia

The political tension in the country is heating up ahead of the 2014 general elections. The General Elections Commission (KPU) has recently announced a list of legislative candidates that have been registered by the 13 political parties competing in the election next year.

Singer Irwansyah runs as legislative candidates
for the Great Indonesian Movement Party
According to a report by The Jakarta Post, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) is the only political party that does not have celebrity figures in its list. The report says that there are 44 celebrities registered in the list of 12 other political parties.

There is actually nothing wrong with celebrities trying their lucks in politics. They, as much as you and I, have constitutional rights to join the political race in this country. But, wait … is there really really nothing wrong with that?  

I lied. Do I really want to be led by celebrities? Do I want celebrities to sit in the parliament to determine the state’s budget? Do I trust them to make laws? The answers for all of the questions are definitely ‘No’.

Let us first take a look at some names of celebrities that have registered themselves as legislative candidates as compiled by a bloggerat kompasiana, Adi Mulia Pradana, The list mentions singer Anang, singer Ashanti, actor Hengky Kurniawan, police-cum-celebrity Norman Kamaru, singer/actor Irwansyah, culinary expert Bondan Winarno and singer Angel Lelga among dozens of other celebrities. Indonesians must have known these figures because they appear almost everyday in the television screen in various infotainment, variety shows, drama, or music shows.  

Anang and Ashanty run as legislative
candidates of the National Mandate Party (PAN) 
Who does not know the singer couple, Anang and Ashanti, in Indonesia? They have made headlines, unfortunately not in news outlets, but in infotainment programs when they wedded a couple of years ago. Their wedding was even nationally live broadcast by a television station. Who does not remember Norman Kamaru? The man, who was a former police officer, rose into prominence when his video of dancing and lipsyncing to a video of Shah Rukh Khan became viral. After realizing that he had an apparent celebrity career, Norman quitted as a cop. Too bad, he is rarely seen now amongst Indonesian celebrities. The last but not least, who does not recognize the handsome face of Irwansyah? This young lad is adored by teenagers (who happen to be young voters).

Political experts have for long argued that political parties can rely on celebrities as their vote gatherers. In Indonesia, celebrities made their debuts in elections firstly to attract people to come to campaigns. Usually, political parties hire singers to perform on their campaigns. But that was in the past. Political parties have now tried to ‘trust’ celebrities to also run as their legislative candidates. Surely, it does not need a political analyst to say that this kind of move is aimed at boosting the votes gathered by a political party. Moreover, the current regulation stipulating that political parties have to at least gather 3.5 percent of national votes to sit at the parliament makes them worried about not getting enough votes. Therefore, they probably see celebrities as their weapons to obtain the required vote.

Celebrities are indeed very famous. But it should be noted that by far, they are famous not because of their political skill. They are famous not because they are involved in organizations that strive to make betterments to this country. They are well known not because they have made changes to this country. They are well known simply because they are celebrities. They are well known because they have entertained us. I do not know about whether or not they have adequate political training or skills needed to sit at the parliament. Becoming a legislator is not an easy job. Even, the nation’s best men have also fallen when they sit at the parliament, be them involved in graft cases or other scandals.
Former beauty queen Angelina Sondakh in one of her trial at the Jakarta Corruption Court  (source:
In the 2009 election, there were 18 celebrities who made it into the House of Representatives. That included the graft convict Angelina Sondakh. That also included singer Tere, who resigned from the House last year. Both Angelina and Tere came from th Democratic Party. Others? They are rarely heard of their activism in the House. Eko Patrio of the National Mandate Party (PAN) is even seen more on television screen as comedians rather than as politicians.  

Although I cannot deny a fact that there are some celebrities who are considered successful in politics like Nurul Arifin from the Golkar Party, in my opinion, celebrities are not trained to be politicians. Their job nature is in an entirely different world as running a country.  

Now, do you want your country to be led by our celebrities? It is up to you. But I for sure will not select any of celebrity in the upcoming election. Be wise and smart in using your political right next year! If you really want to select a celebrity to be in the House, then please choose a smart celebrity, not the dumb ones. Remember that each vote counts!


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