Standing for parliament, and against mining in Kalimantan

Standing for parliament, and against mining in Kalimantan

Like many other oligarchs and businesses exploiting natural resources, mining companies and their elite supporters have a lot of political clout in post-authoritarian Indonesia. This can be seen in the way mining companies have entrenched their influence in local politics, thanks to the significant role they play in financing aspiring candidates in recourse-rich regions.

One of these resource-rich regions, East Kalimantan province, is a major centre of various extractive industries, ranging from oil and gas, timber logging, and more recently coal mining and oil palm. Consequently, it has also become one of the major battlegrounds for mining industry-influenced political contestation. In East Kalimantan alone, there are 1,404 mining licenses registered by the provincial government. Leading local politicians, such as Said Amin, and the notoriously corrupt former district head (bupati) of Kutai Kartanegara, Rita Widyasari, either own or receive kickbacks from mining operations. It’s not surprising that there is a lack of responsiveness from the local government regarding the destructive socio-ecological impacts of mining, including in the gubernatorial election last year.

Extractive business interests and local elites have formed collusive relationships at the expense of rural citizens in Kalimantan provinces. In the neighbouring Central Kalimantan province, the expansion of corrupt land dealsand oil palm plantation has seen local political elites enrich themselves, dominate local politics, and suppress dissenting voices who express concern over the destructive socio-ecological impacts of natural resource exploitation. In East Kalimantan, the development of the coal mining industry has brought devastating impacts for rural livelihoods and bred corruption. Such a practices are representative of broader patterns of how oligarchic competition for political offices, and the collusive relationships with business that are prevalent among local elites, influences the trajectory of post-authoritarian local politics.

But in the 2019 election campaign, some Indonesian politicians in Kalimantan are trying to speak out against the excesses of the extractive industries there. In Samarinda, East Kalimantan, Baharuddin Demmu (Bahar), a National Mandate Party (PAN) member of the provincial parliament, is a rare example of an activist-turned-politician who continues to criticise extractive business interests and their local elite allies even after joining the local parliament. I spent a week observing Bahar and a number of activists and community members in the 2019 legislative election campaign to try to understand how mining influences electoral politics in East Kalimantan, and the challenges an activist-turned-politician faces in campaigning on a platform of environmental sustainability.

Checking the excesses of coal mining industry in the provincial parliament remains hugely difficult, reflecting the continuing dominance of local predatory interests that benefit from the industry, and the limited influence that rural citizens and their civil society allies have in defending the sustainability of rural livelihoods. In this context, Bahar’s story is important because it shows how a politician in a resource-rich province is trying to advocate for the rights of communities that have been affected by large resource extractive industries, and rural constituencies more generally. It tells us that there are Indonesian politicians who do care about their voters. But challenging mining-fuelled oligarchic interests, and promoting environmental sustainability and rural livelihoods, requires a much more extensive effort by rural lower-classes and their civil society allies— work that cannot rely on one politician alone.

The rise of an unlikely politician

Bahar had a first-hand experience of how extractive industries damage the environment and rural livelihoods. During his childhood, Chevron, a multinational oil and gas company, evicted his family from their house and farm with the help of local military forces back in 1986. This experience influenced him to get involved in community activism during his college days. He then joined the East Kalimantan branch of the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), a mining watchdog organisation, and led the organisation as its coordinator from 2002 to 2004.

Inspired by his experience serving as an elected village head from 2006 to 2009, Bahar decided to run for a seat as an MP. In his first attempt, he won a seat in the district parliament of Kutai Kartanegara in 2009. In the parliament, he continued to voice his bold opposition against unethical corporate practices by the mining industry, a move that upset many other politicians who benefitted from coal mining. After winning a seat in the provincial parliament, he remained committed to voice his opposition to the excesses of coal mining, where he was a strident critic of the mining industry’s social and environmental failings.

Bahar’s successful foray into politics shows how a politician with an activist background can try to make a difference at the local level. However, just getting there isn’t enough: Bahar, like so many activists-turned-politicians, still faces significant challenges in fighting big extractive industry companies from within the system.

How mining influences politics in East Kalimantan

John Sidel has argued that quality of local democracy is suppressed in areas where “control over the commanding heights” of the local economy are dominated by few powerful players. This is true in East Kalimantan, where the extractive sector dominates the local economy. Access to mining money encourages politicians to outspend each other in election campaigns, and the resulting increase in the cost of campaign financing makes it more difficult for cash-strapped candidates to make inroads into local politics.

Given the high cost of election campaigning in Indonesia, political hopefuls with weak ties to voters have no choice but to rely on campaign financing from supportive donors. According to a  2018 study from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), many candidates competing in the 2015 executive head elections (known as Pilkada) needed external sources for campaign financing. The study also found that around 43% of the candidates who lost their elections spent around Rp1–5 billion (A$100,000–500,000) on their campaign. Those who won their elections, meanwhile, needed around Rp20–30 billion (A$2–3 million) to win a mayor or district head post, and up to Rp100 billion (A$10 million) to secure a gubernatorial seat.

Further research by JATAM has shown that candidates often strike shady deals with mining companies to win local elections in resource areas. The companies will fund their campaign and in exchange receive mining licences once the candidates of their choice win the elections. For instance, after the 2010 pilkada, the number of mining licences increased significantly in various resource-rich districts, including Kutai Kartanegara district. This trend continued until very recently, in the 2018 executive head elections. In total, JATAM and a number of other civil society organisations estimate that the number of mining licenses issued across Indonesia exploded from 750 licenses in 2001 to 10,000 in 2010.

In such a high-cost political arena, it is difficult for someone like Bahar to win election. However, he has attempted to compensate for his lack of campaign funds with his strong ties to local communities. His activism and familiarity with the rural context have become his strongest political assets. Activists and community members that I talked to confirm this assessment: according to them, to win a seat in East Kalimantan, one has to have either a strong connection with the voters or a huge amount of money to buy votes. Bahar has the former, so he does not really need the latter. Bahar claims that he only needed to spend Rp20–30 million (A$2,000–3,000) for his campaign to secure a seat in the district parliament and Rp100-200 million (A$10,000–$20,000) for his campaign for a seat in the provincial parliament. If true, these figures are significantly lower than the figures a successful politician is usually required to spend.

As an incumbent, though, Bahar also maintains the loyalty of his constituencies by facilitating their access to state resources and facilities. “If local peasants and fishers do not have their groups yet, then I will help them out (to make one),” he said. Bahar’s colleague, Syarifuddin, another politician from PAN, told me, “it is important for our constituencies to have their own peasants’ and fishers’ groups, otherwise it will be difficult for them to submit proposals for facilities and the like,” he added. Bahar and my interlocutors claimed that by using tactics like this Bahar does not have to buy votes.

Bahar and his supporters are quite optimistic that he will win the re-election for his second term in the provincial parliament. But the more crucial question is what he will do to fight against mining-fuelled oligarchic interests in East Kalimantan and for the betterment of his constituency. Bahar and his activist colleagues are well aware that oligarchs continue to dominate the electoral arena in Indonesia. As Merah explained it to me, “he needs to fight oligarchic interests not only from outside but also from inside (his party).”

This is a herculean task. Bahar told me about his experience of receiving “advice” from several people to tone down his criticisms of the coal mining industry. “I received phone calls [from an unknown person] advising me to stop criticising mining…when I was in Jakarta a few people also came to me and told me to stop the investigation [of illegal mining] in the provincial parliament,” he told me. “Nevertheless, I carried on,” he added.

What makes it challenging is the fact that national-level oligarchs have a vested interest in keeping and expanding coal mining businesses in East Kalimantan. A new investigation by Global Witness, an environmental watchdog organisation, has revealed that figures such as Luhut Pandjaitan, a former general and close advisor to Joko Widodo, and Sandiaga Uno, Prabowo Subianto’s vice-presidential candidate, are significant beneficiaries of coal mining in East Kalimantan. Given their extensive political influence, one might question how individual activists can withstand the influence of national oligarchs in their regions.

How much change can be won through elections?

Moreover, Bahar has not been able to break free from the common practice in Indonesian politics of building patronage networks. It is true that he neither buys votes nor distributes small gifts to a group of favoured voters, but he has not been able to transform the dependent relationship between him and his voters. Recall his admission of facilitating the creation of local peasants’ and fishers’ groups to access state resources and facilities in his constituencies. While this helps the voters to some extent, it also precludes the possibility of a more independent and equal relationship between voters and politicians.

What is equally important is that marginalised rural communities and civil society actors in East Kalimantan and other resource-rich province do not fall for the illusion that electing an MP that represents their interests will solve the many problems caused by coal mining and other extractive industries for once and all. Historical examples have shown that it is the disruptive actions of lower-class and civil society movements that led to major political transformations such as democratisation. This is also true at the local scale, including in East Kalimantan: without consistent mass pressure from rural citizens and their civil society allies, it would be difficult to ensure that the many problems associated with resource extraction are heard and accommodated in local and national politics.

When asked about what he thought of Bahar’s strategy of entering electoral politics, Merah Johansyah Ismail (Merah), the national coordinator of JATAM, said, “sometimes he repeats the (dominant) discourse (that working within the system should be the main strategy). But we still respect and maintain our communication with him.” I asked Merah what the main strategy for advocating for the rights of communities affected by mining should be. He replied, “we have no choice but to promote and rely on mass actions.” Merah’s assessment is quite accurate: major social movements in the 20th century such as workers’ and civil rights movements were able to force elites to make some policy concessions through mass actions such as protests and demonstrations.

This is not to say that electoral participation does not matter. However, one needs to understand the nature and limitation of elections in places like East Kalimantan, where extractive industries and their elite supporters can easily tilt electoral competition in their favour. As Benedict Anderson warned a long time ago, elections in Southeast Asia including in Indonesia are a sign of “bourgeois political dominance,” an assessment that remains true to this day.

In other words, a more concerted two-pronged strategy—which involves activists entering electoral politics as well as the intensification of contentious collective actions from below—is needed to substantially improve the quality of democracy in East Kalimantan. Bahar is no Tony Benn (the militant Labour Party politician who remained committed to, and a participant in, lower-class mobilisation while he was in office). But he can learn from his own experience—some of Bahar’s voters are the ones who joined him in mass demonstrations against the oil and gas industry’s lack of attention to people’s livelihoods back in his activist days. These protesters are also the ones who broadened the local democratic space enough to allowed him to win a seat as an MP. Without these disruptive actions, it would be difficult for ordinary citizens to get their voice heard and make a difference in local politics, even under democratised and decentralised settings.

Nevertheless, Bahar’s unusual track record has shown how there is a possibility for a more meaningful local democracy in Indonesia beyond illiberal populismor oligarchic hegemony. Unfortunately, such an example remains few and far between. In a sense, Bahar’s rise is an exception that proves the rule: that oligarchs and their local supporters still dominate Indonesian local electoral politics.

I would like to thank Baharuddin Demmu, JATAM, and my local interlocutors in East Kalimantan for their help in facilitating my fieldwork.

Women among the fishers

If you ask the Indonesian public who has made the biggest difference for Indonesian fishers, one name will keep coming up: Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s minister of fisheries and maritime affairs. A colourful self-made entrepreneur, Susi has gained a reputation as a maverick and a bold reformer through her policies, including cracking down on illegal foreign fishing.

But the focus on Susi neglects another group who have also made a lot of difference to the lives of Indonesian fishers: women in fishing and coastal communities. In my recent visits to fishing villages in Central Java and North Sumatra, I found that women in these communities have played a crucial role in advocating for fishers’ and women’s rights. They have improved the lives of many in their communities. This achievement is particularly commendable given the government’s lack of attention to issues affecting women in fishing communities and enduring patriarchal values in Indonesian society at large.

Indeed, women’s contributions to fishing communities often go unnoticed. According to a 2015 study conducted by Kiara, a fishers’ rights advocacy group, women contribute close to half (48 per cent) of income in fishing households across Indonesia. They also work long hours – 17 hours per day, both in fishing activities and at home. This was true for the women I interviewed – they had a major role in processing and selling fish products as well as in handling domestic chores. But as Kiara head Susan Herawati notes, “women’s work is often not recognised as real work”.

Despite facing a double burden of fishing and domestic work, women in fishing communities get involved in activism and policy advocacy in a variety of ways, including building community-led organisations and enterprises and promoting women’s rights.

In Kendal, for example, I met Sulyati, a teacher from a fishing family in the village of Gempolsewu. Since 2012, she has been organising women through a village-level women-led community business unit (KBU) called Sekar Wilujeng. “It is challenging to encourage my neighbours to get involved in community organising,” Sulyati said. She is convinced that women in her village need to organise to better promote their interests and improve their community.

While Sulyati and her neighbours are still struggling, a women’s group in Serdang Bedagai district, North Sumatra, has had a degree of success in promoting economic empowerment and independence for women in coastal communities.

I spoke to Jumiati, one of the initiators of Muara Baimbai, a community organisation and cooperative in the fishing village of Sei Nagalawan. With the support of her husband and other community members, Jumiati has been promoting community-based mangrove conservation and eco-tourism and selling local fish and mangrove food products since 2004.

In the beginning, her motivation was simple. “At that time,” she said, “I thought we needed to support our movement [to improve the livelihood of the fisherfolk] with economic strategies.”

The result has been incredible: over the past few years, residents of Sei Nagalawan have been able to generate and manage a sizeable profit from their business for the benefit of the community. Further, women have played an important role in this initiative, actively participating in the organisation and managing its business.

Another women’s and fishers’ organisation in Central Java, Puspita Bahari, focuses on rights advocacy in fishing communities. Based in Demak, Puspita Bahari promotes not only livelihood development but also gender equality and awareness of civil rights among the most marginalised in coastal and fishing communities in the district.

Puspita Bahari’s founder, Masnu’ah, told me she established the organisation to fight domestic violence and improve women’s rights in her community. “We’ve been working since 2005 and continue to expand the scope of our activities, from campaigning for the rights of women and fishers to paralegal advocacy for people with disability.” For this work, Puspita Bahari has received numerous awards and recognition within and outside Indonesia.

From fighting against domestic violence to encouraging women’s participation in social life, these groups are at the forefront of promoting women’s interests in fishing and coastal communities. While their scope of activities and areas of operation are still limited, they are making real impacts for their communities and have the potential to promote meaningful local level policy change.

For instance, Puspita Bahari has been fighting for the formal recognition of Demak-based women who engage in fishing activities. Being formally recognised as fishers, like their male counterparts, will enable them to make use of a variety of state facilities and services, as stipulated by Law 7 of 2016 on Protection and Empowerment of Fishers and Salt Miners.

By doing so, they also challenge and help dismantle dominant patriarchal understandings that fail to acknowledge women’s contributions in both fishing activities and the domestic realm.

These women’s advocacy efforts are also important because Indonesia’s dominant political discourse on women, including in the recent presidential debate, tends to treat women in a superficial or tokenistic manner.

For Sulyati, Jumiati, Masnu’ah, and many other women in fishing communities across Indonesia, the fight for the rights of women and the most marginalised still has a long way to go. But the future is not entirely bleak. Through small-scale, locally targeted activities, these women have been able to make a tangible difference in their communities.

Like many other actors in the women’s movement, they are fighting the good fight for a better life for women and a more meaningful democracy for many.

Dr Iqra Anugrah would like to thank Kiara and community members of fishing villages in Kendal, Demak, and Serdang Bedagai  for their help throughout his fieldwork.

Bagaimana Nelayan Berpolitik di Tengah Pemilu?

“Saya telah berkunjung ke seribu titik lokasi, bertemu masyarakat…. Ada kisah tentang Bapak Najib, seorang nelayan Pantai Pasir Putih di Cilamaya, Karawang. Beliau mengambil pasir untuk ditanam di hutan bakau. Beliau dipersekusi, dikriminalisasi [karena itu]. ” Demikian klaim Calon Wakil Presiden Prabowo Subianto, Sandiaga Uno dalam debat pertama Pemilihan Presiden Indonesia pada 17 Februari.

Pernyataan Sandiaga dan ceritanya tentang seorang nelayan yang dikriminalisasi secara tidak adil di Karawang langsung memicu keriuhan politik.

Di luar soal benar-tidaknya cerita Sandi, hak-hak nelayan berhasil meraih perhatian publik nasional dalam sebuah forum terkemuka. Jika orang Amerika punya ‘Joe the Plumber’, perwujudan sosok wirausahawan kecil yang merugi akibat tarif pajak yang tinggi, masyarakat Indonesia sekarang memiliki ‘Najib sang Nelayan’, perwakilan dari wong cilik yang menjadi korban dari hukum yang berat sebelah.

Bagi politisi, upaya agar komunitas nelayan mendukung mereka adalah persoalan serius. Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS) memperkirakan ada hampir satu juta rumah tangga nelayan di Indonesia dan sekitar 2,3 juta nelayan di seluruh nusantara. Meski kuantitasnya terlihat kecil jika dibandingkan dengan total populasi Indonesia, tetapi kelompok ini mewakili seperlima dari total populasi masyarakat pesisir dan memiliki potensi mobilisasi yang kuat. Menjelang pemilihan umum April mendatang, kedua kubu telah berusaha menggalang dukungan dari nelayan.

Ketika menjajaki komunitas nelayan di Jawa Tengah dan Sumatera Utara selama kampanye pemilu 2019, saya menemukan persoalan hak-hak nelayan, yang seringkali dipandang sebagai isu khusus, kini telah menjadi bagian dari wacana politik arus utama. Sayangnya, agensi politik nelayan masih berorientasi pada kebutuhan konsesi jangka pendek, alih-alih pada upaya mendesak perubahan kebijakan yang menguntungkan komunitas nelayan secara keseluruhan.

Dengan karakter organisasi politik yang cenderung lokal dan bersifat ad hoc semata, kelompok nelayan adalah cermin fragmentasi yang berkelanjutan di kalangan masyarakat sipil Indonesia serta keterbatasan peluang kelompok kelas bawah untuk mempengaruhi kontestasi politik.

Hak Nelayan sebagai Masalah Politik
Dalam masa jabatan pertama Jokowi, urusan maritim dan perikanan mulai mendominasi percakapan arus utama tentang politik di Indonesia. Sebagai bagian dari ambisi pembangunan Jokowi, ia membayangkan Indonesia bisa menjadi poros maritim global, yang tak lain adalah pusat utama eksplorasi sumber daya laut dan pesisir.

Ditambah dengan kebijakan nasionalis Menteri Susi, terutama dalam menindak penangkapan ikan ilegal oleh kapal asing, persoalan maritim dan kehidupan masyarakat pesisir dan nelayan yang rentan secara ekonomi kini tidak pernah absen dari laman berita media Indonesia.

Di sisi lain, tim kampanye Prabowo-Sandi mengajukan proposal kebijakan dengan fokus yang sangat kontras dengan kubu petahana. Dalam manifesto politik Prabowo-Sandi, daftar target yang hendak dicapai tak tangung-tanggung, antara lain: mengurangi kesenjangan antara wilayah pesisir dan pedalaman, meningkatkan anggaran nasional untuk sektor perikanan dan kelautan, menyalurkan lebih banyak skema kredit kepada nelayan, menjamin harga pasar untuk komoditas yang menguntungkan baik nelayan maupun konsumen.

Masalahnya, daftar target janji kampanye yang panjang itu tak disertai paparan tentang cara untuk mewujudkannya.

Di titik ini kita bisa sepakat bahwa persoalan hak nelayan jelas mempengaruhi pemilu 2019. Namun, kebijakan maritim dan perikanan nampaknya akan sama saja, terlepas dari siapa yang berkuasa. Larangan Menteri Susi yang kontroversial tentang penangkapan ikan dengan pukat, misalnya. Sementara para nelayan di pulau-pulau terluar Indonesia menyambut hangat larangan itu, para operator kapal pukat yang berbasis di Jawa mengkritiknya habis-habisan. Akhirnya, Susi menyerah dengan tekanan publik dan mengeluarkan moratorium penundaan larangan tersebut di wilayah Jawa.

Sandiaga Uno turut mengambil kesempatan dalam isu ini. Walaupun belum mengambil sikap yang jelas mengenai kontroversi tersebut, Sandi berjanji untuk mencari solusi tengah yang menguntungkan semua pihak.

Bagaimana Nelayan Terlibat dalam Politik?
Dari kunjungan ke Kendal dan Demak di Jawa Tengah dan Serdang Bedagai di Sumatera Utara, saya menemukan beberapa cara nelayan berpolitik, antara lain menjadi makelar yang menawarkan patronase, beraliansi dengan kandidat lokal yang kooperatif, atau mencalonkan diri dalam pemilihan lokal.

Sebuah cerita dari desa Gempolsewu di kabupaten Kendal, Jawa Tengah, menggambarkan cara kerja patronase di komunitas nelayan. Saya mendapati kasus klasik di mana seorang tokoh lokal yang menjabat ketua kelompok usaha bersama (KUB) nelayan setempat berperan sebagai perantara antara warga dengan kandidat politik. Nashikin, ketua KUB ini, adalah tokoh kunci yang dapat memelihara (atau memutus) hubungan antara komunitasnya dengan politisi pencari suara.

Di Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR) tingkat nasional, komunitas Nashikin diwakili oleh Fadhloli dari partai Nasdem yang pro-Jokowi. “Saya mengapresiasi apa yang telah dia lakukan untuk kami,” kata Nashikin. Baginya, Fadhloli adalah jenis politisi langka yang rutin mengunjungi konstituennya dan berjuang untuk mereka—sebagian besar dilakukan dengan melobi pemerintah kabupaten setempat untuk memberikan fasilitas negara bagi para nelayan, seperti jaring ikan. “Ada caleg-caleg yang datang tapi setelah itu lupa (dengan kami). Makanya kami tidak akan memilih mereka lagi,” tambahnya.

Hubungan komunitas Nashikin dengan anggota parlemen mereka mencerminkan pola yang jamak terjadi dalam dinamika pemilu lokal di Indonesia, di mana merekrut jaringan lokal dan makelar yang tepat adalah perkara serius.

Komunitas nelayan lainnya menempuh strategi yang berbeda. Aliansi dengan kandidat lokal berfungsi sebagai strategi untuk menagih imbalan yang sejalan dengan kepentingan nelayan. Sugeng, ketua kelompok nelayan lokal lain di Kendal bernama Mina Agung Sejahtera, mengatakan kepada saya bahwa “Pilpres tidak terlalu penting. Yang lebih penting adalah memiliki perwakilan di tingkat lokal.”

Untuk pemilihan legislatif lokal mendatang, Sugeng memberikan dukungannya untuk Mifta Reza Noto Prayitno, seorang anggota parlemen dari partai milik Prabowo, Gerindra, yang memenangkan kursi DPRD dari wilayah Jawa Tengah pada Pileg 2014 lalu. “Karena dia mendukung kepentingan kami. Dia bahkan menggunakan uangnya sendiri untuk mengunjungi kami,” kata Sugeng.

Pendapat serupa dilontarkan Masnu’ah, pemimpin Puspita Bahari, organisasi perempuan yang bekerja di komunitas nelayan di kabupaten Demak. Dia berkata, “Partai politik tidak terlalu penting bagi saya… Sekarang saya lebih melihat kandidatnya.”

Selangkah lebih maju, beberapa nelayan mencalonkan diri dan ikut bertarung di pemilihan lokal. Sulyati, seorang guru dari keluarga nelayan di Gempolsewu, Kendal, mencoba peruntungannya dan maju di pemilihan anggota parlemen daerah pada 2014 dengan tiket dari Gerindra. Meski hampir memenangkan kursi saat itu, dia memutuskan tidak nyaleg tahun ini. “Awalnya saya menyalonkan diri karena dorongan teman-teman saya. Sekarang saya memilih untuk fokus pada kerja-kerja di komunitas saya, ”katanya.

Pemimpin komunitas sekaligus nelayan dari Kabupaten Serdang Bedagai di Sumatera Utara, Sutrisno, juga mencalonkan diri untuk kursi di parlemen tingkat kabupaten, di bawah payung partai PKB yang pro-Jokowi. “Saya pikir penting untuk memiliki seseorang yang dapat menjaga kepentingan kita di tingkat lokal,” ujar Sutrisno.

Lewat aliansi dengan patron politik seperti anggota parlemen, mereka dapat langsung menuai hasil. Sementara, bertarung langsung dalam pemilihan lokal lebih berisiko. Kandidat yang sehari-hari berprofesi sebagai nelayan bisa kalah dan menyurutkan semangat pendukungnya. Namun demikian, Sulyati dan Sutrisno cukup puas dengan pengalaman pemilihan mereka. Walau kalah, pengalaman itu tidak merusak semangat Sulyati.

Sutrisno cukup percaya diri dengan prospeknya untuk 2019. Dia mengatakan kepada saya bahwa dia sudah memiliki cukup suara untuk memperoleh kursi. Akan tetapi, sebagai aktivis hak-hak nelayan, dia juga membutuhkan dukungan dari para nelayan. Saya bertanya apa yang akan dia lakukan begitu dia terpilih. “Salah satu hal yang akan saya perjuangkan adalah memastikan para nelayan dapat menerima semua subsidi, fasilitas, dan program (yang berhak mereka dapatkan),” jawab Sutrisno. Apa dia terlalu optimis? Kita baru akan mengetahuinya setelah pemilu nanti.

Apa yang Bisa Dipelajari dari Mobilisasi Politik Nelayan?
Para nelayan dan sekutu mereka memiliki pandangan dan strategi berbeda terkait pemilihan. Beberapa mendukung pemerintah, yang lain mendukung oposisi. Banyak yang berpendapat bahwa politik nasional masih penting, tetapi bagi sebagian yang lain, kontestasi lokal justru lebih berperan dalam membentuk kehidupan mereka. Kekuatan gerakan para nelayan terletak pada dua senjata utama: mobilisasi massa dan pemungutan suara.

Konsisten dengan hasil studi akademis tentang gerakan kelas bawah, kekuatan mobilisasi nelayan beserta aksi disruptifnya—mulai dari protes massal hingga penghentian kapal pukat ilegal di laut—kerap berhasil membuat elite menyerah pada tuntutan mereka. Keberhasilan ini biasanya diikuti sejumlah perubahan pada kebijakan lokal perubahan dan penguatan demokrasi lokal.

Namun, di tingkat nasional, para nelayan terbagi-bagi berdasarkan afiliasi organisasi masing-masing. Ada lima serikat nelayan. Empat serikat nelayan adalah serikat independen, yaitu Kesatuan Nelayan Tradisional Indonesia (KNTI), Serikat Nelayan Indonesia (SNI), Federasi Serikat Nelayan Nusantara (FSNN), dan Persaudaraan Perempuan Nelayan Indonesia (PPNI). Sedangkan, Himpunan Nelayan Seluruh Indonesia (HNSI), merupakan organisasi korporatis bentukan Orde Baru untuk menaungi nelayan.

Dinamika pemilu belakangan semakin memperuncing perpecahan ini. “Suara nelayan memang terfragmentasi,” ujar Parid Ridwanuddin, aktivis KIARA, sebuah organisasi masyarakat sipil yang memperjuangkan hak-hak masyarakat pesisir dan nelayan. “Mendekati pemilihan ini,” ia menambahkan, “suara mereka juga terbagi antara Jokowi dan Prabowo.” Fragmentasi semacam itu melemahkan kekuatan politik mereka. Walhasil, daya tawar mereka untuk mengajukan alternatif kebijakan nasional di isu kelautan dan perikanan—membatasi ekspansi modal besar di wilayah pesisir atau membendung kekuatan jejaring patronase lokal yang ada—akhirnya pun jadi terbatas.

Namun, di luar keterbatasan mereka, keterlibatan politik nelayan penting untuk penguatan demokrasi di Indonesia. Mereka adalah wujud partisipasi baru dari kelompok kelas bawah dan terpinggirkan. Keterlibatan semacam itu penting untuk mengarahkan kembali debat politik ke masalah nyata, yang berdampak langsung pada mata pencaharian masyarakat. Dengan menjauh dari politik populis yang mengeksploitasi agama dan membicarakan masalah aktual, seperti kesenjangan ekonomi dan konflik antar kelas, politisi mau tak mau dituntut oleh mereka untuk memberikan solusi konkret.

Catatan penulis: Saya ingin mengucapkan terima kasih kepada KIARA dan anggota masyarakat desa-desa nelayan di Kendal, Demak, dan Serdang atas bantuan mereka selama kerja lapangan saya.


Sebelum diterjemahkan oleh Levriana Yustriani, tulisan ini terbit dalam bahasa Inggris di New Mandala dengan judul “Fishing for votes in Indonesia”. Penulisnya, Iqra Anugrah, adalah research associate pada Lembaga Penelitian, Pendidikan dan Penerangan Ekonomi dan Sosial (LP3ES) di Jakarta Pusat. Selama Pemilu 2019, ia menjadi New Mandala Indonesia Correspondent Fellow yang menulis isu lingkungan dan sumber daya alam.