The New Regime Take on Surabaya: Waiting for the Breakthrough toward International Cooperation


By Dias Pabyantara

Surabaya has been undergone a political shift due to the mayoral election. The elected mayor and vice, Eri Cahyadi - Armuji, came to power after winning the competition against Machmud Arifin-Mujiaman. They will replace the former major, Tri Risma Harini, who has taken the position of Minister of Social Affairs. However, both of them came from the same party, the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Thus, many assume that there will be a smooth political transition in Surabaya.

In addition to that, Eri-Armuji has the same background as the former mayor and vice. The Risma-Whisnu came from a bureaucrats-politician background for Eri-Armuji. Eri Cahyadi was Head of  Surabaya City Development Planning Agency and had a full endorsement from Risma. His vice, Armuji, is a senior politician who has been twice appointed chairman of Surabaya Regional People's Representative Assembly in 2003 and 2014.  

Many assume that they will lead the same way Risma did, coming from the same background and political structure. Risma leadership is known as a combination of mothership imaginary and assertive style. Some scholars even called her a leader who "hijacking hegemonic masculinity." In her daily political communications, Risma often resembles the image of a mother for her people. It is supported by the fact that Risma is the first female mayor for Surabaya. It then quickly resonance with the needs of a mother figure in the Surabaya community's politics, for instance, how she acknowledges the Bonek community. Whether Eri-Armuji will go down the path Risma did, as they mentioned in the campaign or not, remains to be seen.

Another exciting aspect of Risma's leadership is how she pays excellent attention to Surabaya's international cooperation. She was very active in engaged with foreign counterparts to speed up Surabaya's rapid development. One of them is Kitakyushu City, which CENTRIUS had time to discuss with. Surabaya-Kitakyushu has been described as the most active sister city relations in the environmental aspect. The links resulted in Surabaya's advanced waste management development and overtook Los Angeles in ecological preservation.

On the other hand, international affairs, especially in the city context, seldom become the primary concern in Indonesian politics. The power contestations are structured around domestic issues, making Surabaya's international achievement stand out from other political events. Political support is crucial to international cooperation design. The funding allocations are political decisions that will be decided in the Regional People's Representative Assembly. The mentioned conditions made political support is crucial to city international cooperation.

Here in CENTRIUS, we believe it is one of the fundamental keys to achieving rapid development to build good relations between the local and the global, which has been on the right track under Risma. We are judging from the current trajectory, and the fact that the elected mayor and vice has many resemblances from the former raise positive considerations for Surabaya international cooperation. The elected leader has the same political apparatus to fostering people to people relations between Surabaya and foreign counterparts. So, that all depends on the political will of the elected leader. Whether it will be a monumental leap for Surabaya, or it would be only a mere ceremonial routine.