Indonesia’s Struggle Against Political Corruption


Partyforumseasia: The infamous e-ID card graft case is hotting up.  Golkar chairman and speaker of parliament Setya Novanto has been named as a suspect, and so far, managed to get away. He is no unknown to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which he fights as an enemy of the political establishment. Gresnews, a publication focusing on Indonesian legal and political issues, called his record “Setya Novanto´s Chain of Scandals” on 17 November 2016 (LINK). 
Novanto who had to resign end of 2015 in a bribery scandal of epic dimensions, was eventually cleared and re-appointed as House Speaker in 2016, and was again declared a suspect by KPK in June 2017. The new case, according to KPK, investigates the theft of 170 million USD from a project to issue electronic identity cards for the 255 million Indonesians. Sums between 5,000 and 5.5 million USD, the indictment letter states, had been openly divided up in a room in Parliament, involving at least 37 beneficiaries.
The KPK has been threatened of dissolution by its many enemies within the political elite, but President Jokowi’s reform policies may prevent such a move because it would be extremely unpopular. The question now is how tight the noose around Novanto’s neck might be or become. It is probably a sign of weakness for him to protest heart problems for not showing up for KPK hearings, but his doctors have declared him fit enough in the meantime. Obviously he has tried before some politicking in the background to influence the South Jakarta District Court to order the KPK to drop its investigation.  More than 80 witnesses have already testified against him in the KPK hearings, though.

The special Indonesian background:
Political parties need funding for their activities, lots of funding for their election campaigns, and even more funding if they buy votes and pay the canvassers.
The Indonesian party system has developed rather creative ways of raising the necessary funds by privatising the fund raising. One is the recruitment of oligarchs who can inject bigger amounts, the other one is the “scalping” of the many development and infrastructure projects which are available in the expanding economy and increasing state income of Indonesia. The mechanism is simple, in most cases the member of parliament manages to “sponsor” a project by influencing the decision making in the Parliament or a ministry, and gets a “commission”, regularly up to one third of the total cost. That method is anything but uncommon in the region in different varieties, and certainly not unknown in other parts of the world.
What sets Indonesia apart is the mindboggling size of some of the commissions paid. Since everybody knows about these procedures, many politicians have dropped any remaining reluctance to grab whatever they can get. And, no surprise, these financial skills are highly attractive for the political parties. This is one of the reasons why Setya Novanto made it back to the helm of the Golkar Party.

 

The Presidential Systems in Indonesia and the Philippines Work Differently


Partyforumseasia: President Joko Widodo of Indonesia is not yet in full control of the political machinery 19 months after assuming office in October 2014. If the election of Setya Novanto as new chairman of Golkar, the second largest party, will end the

Indo Parl

The newest figures by Wikipedia

internal rivalries and the party joins the presidential coalition, the President will control over 60 % of the parliament. But control may be exaggerated as description, as the coalition, see the colorful chart on the left, consists of seven parties,with Golkar already included by Wikipedia after the party convention in Bali last weekend. Running a country as diverse as Indonesia without a majority in parliament is certainly extremely difficult but maybe facilitated by the flexible nature of Indonesians and the very wide range of gray tones between black and white compared to the normal confrontations in Western democracies. The support of Golkar will help President Widodo to push more forcefully for stalled but necessary reforms. But it will remain a daunting task to balance the government coalition and satisfy all party leaders and dignitaries with sufficiently powerful (and profitable) posts and positions in government and public service.

In the Philippines the post-election political situation looks very different. The country of over 100 million citizens, with a median age of 24.4 years, and still a high poverty rate of 26%, has not developed a strong party system. During the political developments after the fall of Marcos and the “People Power or Edsa Revolution” in 1986, the Philippines have in many ways managed to strengthen their democratic institutions albeit with a weakness of enforcement in important details. With 70 % of legislators coming from political clans and thriving on oligarchic and partially even violent patron-client relationships, the 55 million voters were tired of elite politics and provided maverick candidate Rodrigo Duterte with a handsome majority of 38.6% over the runner up establishment candidate Mar Roxas with 23.45%. The latter’s running mate, Leni Robredo, is still waiting for the final and official results because her lead over “Bongbong” Ferdinand Marcos, eldest son of the late dictator, is paper thin. In case her victory is confirmed, Duterte will give her a cabinet post.

President-elect Duterte has pushed his campaign with a very tough image after two decades as mayor of Davao and plenty of tough talking and promises to clean up with corruption and crime. Elite candidate Mar Roxas, whose grandfather was a president, has graciously conceded defeat and congratulated the winner, but establishment and intellectuals are anything but happy with the outcome. Duterte may manage to cut painfully into their privileges and redistribute the benefits of the country’s economic growth under the Aquino administration to the poorer parts of the society.
As usual in the Philippines, after the president is elected politicians move into his or her camp irrespective of party affiliation. Duterte is holding court in his Davao home and the friends, old and new, queue up to get appointed for positions from minister to ambassador.
Expectations among Duterte’s voters are sky high, but there is also a herculean task ahead. Despite economic progress under Aquino the poverty level is still the second highest in Southeast Asia.
Poverty levels in SEA

The organization of the elections on 9 May has worked remarkably well given the geographical challenges of the 7000 islands nation. On top of the election of president  and vice president, the voters had to decide on12 Senate seats, all 297 seats to the House of Representatives, all governors, vice governors, and 772 seats to the boards of the 81 provinces, all mayors and vice mayors for 145 cities and 1,489 municipalities, all members of the city councils and 11,924 seats on municipal councils, as well as the governor, vice governor and all 24 seats in the regional assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

vote machine

The electronic voting machines are supposed to be hack- and cheat-proof

As the largest electronic vote counting exercise in history with 92,509 vote counting machines being used to digitize voter-marked ballots and transmit the results to the Municipal Board of Canvassers, the 2016 election is an incredible achievement which is not adequately appreciated by the international media, probably too much overshadowed by the victory of Rodrigo Duterte.

Golkar Reconciliation: Compromise Indonesian-Style


Golkar reconciliation

All smiles, the bitter feud is over. Agung Laksono, coordinating minister Luhut Pandjaitan, confirmed chairman Aburizal Bakrie, and former leader Jusuf Kalla (from left)

Partyforumseasia: On December 10, 2014, we were asking whether Golkar was close to a suicide by internal power struggle (Link here). Party leader Aburizal Bakrie was more than disappointed with the result of the presidential election on July 9, 2014. After he could not be the top candidate himself or promote another Golkar candidate, his political gamble to support Gerindra leader  Prabowo Subianto failed. Neither his Golkar party nor many million $$ from his family business could prevent the victory of Joko Widodo.

Against instinct and inclination of the Golkar leadership, Bakrie managed to prevent the party from switching from the losing Prabowo camp to the winners around the new president. This was splitting the party, leading to rival factions, competing party conventions in 2014 and the election of two party leaders, Bakrie being supported by the Prabowo camp and Agung Laksono by the faction open to president Jokowi. The rivalry was brought to the courts, producing different rulings, until on October 20th, 2015 the Supreme Court finally decided that Bakrie is the rightful chairman, one day after the 51st anniversary of Golkar.
Factional strife is absolutely normal in political parties but the visibility of this one has certainly affected the image of Golkar among Indonesia’s voters on top of their image problem after decades of being the political vehicle for president Suharto‘s authoritarian rule. Compromise, though, is the essence of democracy, and it was high time to give up the sulking attitude of the election loser. Indonesia has enough problems to solve and supporting the Jokowi administration is certainly more patriotic than obstructing him in parliament. Golkar’s 91 seats will make it much easier for the president to speed up legislation.

Affiliation of the parties in the Parliament so far(Wikipedia):
Indoparliament
The Golkar factions and their leaders will now have to organize the practical part of their reconciliation and bring the party back to unity. But one may wonder whether the urge to save the party from suicide has been boosted by more concrete advantages. So far it is not clear that calls for a cabinet reshuffle will result in any ministerial posts for the party leaders. But it is not necessary to be a political cynic to expect that in due course…

Indonesia: Golkar’s Ninety-Eight Shades of Gray…


Partyforumseasia: The legendary Indonesian flexibility allows not 50 but up to 98 shades of gray, leaving little space for clear-cut black and white if you take the political reality at 100. But Golkar’s long march from Aburizal Bakrie‘s stubborn sticking to the Prabowo opposition after losing the presidential election to join the Jokowi coalition seems to have come to an
end.
Agung Bakrie

Aburizal Bakrie and Agung Laksono before the leadership struggle.

With the memory of saving its privileged government experience under Suharto well into the democratic era, it is no wonder that Bakrie’s opposition course would face stiff resistance among party members and leaders who prefer to be in power. If old fox Bakrie did not see this trap this may signal the end of his political career. But don’t count him out yet, the shades of gray may give him a second chance.
The internal struggle had developed in rather dramatic form with a party split and the election of two competing leadership teams under outgoing Aburizal Bakrie and new leader Agung Laksono. The Jakarta Globe on 17 March describes the rift as “The war between two rival factions of Indonesia’s oldest party reached a new height on Tuesday, with claims, accusations, lawsuits, threats and sanctions flying between the sides.” (Link here)
After inconclusive attempts to solve the problem with the internal party tribunal or the Central Jakarta District Court, the decision for Agung Laksono has been made by his growing support in the party, defections from the Bakrie camp, and finally by Bakrie dropping his law-suit against Agung last Tuesday, 17 March.
Under the Agung Laksono leadership Golkar will support the Jokowi government  with its 91 members of parliament and finally tip the scale against the so far dominating Red-and-White opposition coalition. A parliamentary majority for the president is certainly good for Indonesia and a smoother legislative process.
But Golkar is not yet part of the ruling coalition. In a meeting with PDI-P chair Megawati this week, neither Agung nor Megawati mentioned the accession to the government coalition. The open question is of course the compensation for the support in terms of government positions, not easy to solve when all the posts are filled already. The shades of gray may help!

Political Parties As They Come and Go…


Partyforumseasia: Three pieces of advice were quite shocking for the editor of this page when he joined a party as an idealistic young student: 1. Former German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s warning about inner-party competition in three steps, “enemy, mortal enemy, party comrade”… 2. Former US President Theodore Roosevelt’s warning that if you need a friend in Washington you better buy a dog, and 3. The claim of a party veteran, “No power in the world can destroy our party, only we ourselves…”
Political parties come and go, some rather fast, some more slowly. Southeast Asia has many of the first kind, but also quite a number of very resilient ones, most of them in power for decades. The self-destruction by infighting and power struggles can be observed in three interesting cases at the moment, namely Golkar and National Mandate Party (PAN) in Indonesia and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

GolkarGolkar is the oldest party in Indonesia with decades of a very privileged ruling monopoly under President Suharto. Adapting to the democratic era it has survived so far (with 91 out of 560 seats in parliament), but ambitious chairman Aburizal Bakrie‘s failed gamble in the presidential election and sticking to the losing coalition may eventually destroy the party. An anti-Bakrie faction may prefer more flexibility and has elected a rival chairman, former welfare minister Agung Laksono. On 3 March, two of the four judges on the internal party tribunal have voted for him as legitimate leader, two others avoided a decision and want the case to be decided by a court of law instead. The Central Jakarta District Court had already earlier refused to invalidate the party’s Bali congress which re-elected Bakrie. This way Golkar has two competing factions with two chairmen fighting for legitimation. Without a binding decision of the internal party tribunal and the obvious reluctance of the courts to tip the scale, the party risks to break up and become irrelevant without a role in government. A European-style way out would be a ballot including all party members, but the fluidity of party membership in Indonesia might exclude this alternative anyway.

PANThe leadership feud in the National Mandate Party (PAN), with 49 out of 560 parliamentary seats, has similar roots as the one in Golkar. Chairman Hatta Rajasa, who was Probowo Subianto‘s running mate in their unsuccessful candidacy against President Jokowi, was narrowly defeated (292-286 votes) by challenger Zulkifli Hasan. The new chairman’s victory was supported by party stalwart Amien Rais who alleged in the party congress that Hatta Rajasa had secretly met with Jokowi and was not faithful to the Prabowo coalition, known as Red-White Coalition or KMP. Loser Prabowo’s inability to concede defeat after the presidential election in July 2014 is still creating ripples in the political party scene of Indonesia.

MICThe Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) was for many years the useful vote getter among Malaysia’s Indian citizens on behalf of UMNO and its National Front or Barisan Nasional coalition but is down to 4 seats out of 222 in parliament in the 2013 election. The crisis followed a decision of the  Registrar of Societies to nullify the internal elections in November and directing the party to hold fresh elections for the three vice-presidential and 23 Central Working Committee (CWC) posts. Since then members of the CWC are challenging the Registrar of Societies order in court in order to maintain the November results. Once at the courts it looks impossible to find an internal compromise. As usual, voters are disappointed and question the quality of the leadership, a common paradox in democracy, which is about debate over policy solutions and compromise.
Dangerous for the party and its survival is above all a public debate about its relevance for the Indian Malaysians. Not surprisingly, prominent Indians and many letters to the editor of Malaysian newspapers say very clearly that the MIC is not serving the Indian community at all.
Nota bene: Political parties are all and always work in progress and turn easily into endangered species!

PS: To be continued…

Indonesia’s Golkar Party: Suicide by Power Struggle?


Partyforumseasia: Indonesia’s traditional shadow play (wayang kulit) has often been used to describe the political scene. The public can only see what happens on the Wayang 1screen and everything behind the scene remains hidden. The art of party politics tries to hide all the backroom deals and unpopular internal quarrels in order to entertain the target groups with clean-cut but often enough illusory pictures.
What happens these days with the Golkar party seems to be a sort of reverse wayang kulit. The power struggle and factional fight is all too visible in front of the screen and its ambitious chairman Abrizal Bakrie (ARB) can no longer hold the party together.
Golkar (or Functional Groups), formed as an instrument of president Suharto’s infamous guided democracy, was the ruling party since 1973 and coalition partner under president Yudhoyono in the democratic era. This long participation in government also means that many members have enjoyed the spoils of power and are not very amused that their chairman is keeping them now in the opposition.
Bakrie 2Aburizal Bakrie is a rather controversial leader. Part of a family business conglomerate, he was considered the richest Indonesian in 2007 by Forbes, but does not appear on the Forbes Asia List any more. His brother was a big sponsor of presidential candidate Prabowo whose defeat spoiled Bakrie’s ambition for the vice presidency after he could not get the presidential nomination of his own party. Golkar is still the second biggest party but many blame its vote plunge from 22 to 14 per cent on the chairman.
Bakrie has probably punched above his real weight by calling a convention ahead of schedule in Bali, outmaneuvering possible rivals by sacking them, and changing the party rules to be re-elected by acclamation instead of the usual secret ballots. This authoritarian and undemocratic style may well fan the discontent of party members further.
Meantime, only a week after the Bali convention and with endorsement of former chairman and now vice president Jusuf Kalla, Bakrie’s critics have organized an alternative party congress and elected former deputy chairman Agung Laksono, who Agungis also leader of the so-called “Presidium of the Golkar Party’s Saviors” as Golkar Chairman. Since two competing chairmen are not foreseen in the party’s constitution, both camps have submitted their election results to the Ministry of Law and Human Rights for confirmation.
Whether the ministry finds a Solomonic solution or not, the party split is too obvious and Golkar dangerously at the crossroads.

Indonesia: How many “Kingmakers” for one President?


Partyforumseasia strategy-wise:  The presidential race has narrowed down to the two top candidates Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo (or Jokowi). As Prabowo, a former general with accusations of human rights violations, underlines an image of decisive and tough leadership, the so far hugely popular Jokowi comes across as humble and approachable. Prabowo 2While he is still leading in the polls by nearly 10%, Prabowo is catching up, harping on leadership and the Sukarno legacy. Underlying traditions, especially in Java, may add to the attractiveness of this campaign strategy.
Golkar leader Aburizal Bakrie had to give up his own presidential ambitions after hopelessly trailing in the polls. Nevertheless, the business tycoon, one of the richest Indonesians, refused to simply drop out and accept defeat. In a surprise move, which seriously affects the cohesion of his party, he now supports Prabowo and tries his luck as kingmaker. According to his own information for the media Bakrie will be compensated with a new cabinet post of “Menteri Utama” or first minister, though the presidential system in Indonesia does not foresee a Prime Minister. Unable to be the “king”, he has managed to belong to the kingmakers like PDI-P leader Megawati and outgoing President Yudhoyono who cannot run again after two terms.

The question is, whether the Indonesian electorate will be impressed by this traditional horse-trading style of coalition building, which on top is burdened by a new corruption scandal concerning the leader of the United Development Party (PPP) which supports Prabowo’s campaign coalition.

Indo JokowiAccording to Indonesian analysts there is a swing development among the country’s voters away from traditional back room and horse-trading politics, “facilitated” with huge sums of money, and what Jokowi seems to represent: a new, more democratic and cleaner political style with more attention to the people. If he wins the presidency the expectations will be sky-high.

 

Political “Dynasties” in Southeast Asia


Partyforumseasia: Political families are not uncommon in party politics, take for example the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush and his son, the 43d President, George W. In Europe it happens less on the top level, but often enough in regional and local politics. The corruption and enrichment scandal in Indonesia’s Banten province and the remarkable career of Mukhriz Mahathir in Malaysia have brought the issue back into the media. MukhrizIn the Mukhriz case two narrowly lost elections, his candidacy for one of UMNO’s vice-presidential posts and the recent by-election in the federal state of Kedah, where he supported the local party candidate, are interpreted as defeat and the campaign support by his father Mahathir Mohamad, 88, a liability, signalling the end of father Mahathir’s overpowering influence in Malaysia’s and UMNO’s politics.
RatuThe Banten case (already posted by Partyforumseasia) has much broader ramifications with family members of the governor Ms Ratu Atut holding seats in the national parliament, mayors, deputy regents and numerous business positions close to politics and administration. Continuing practices of money politics remind many Indonesians too much of Suharto’s family clan and the enrichment of his sons.
If the Banten-related corruption case involving the chief justice of the Constitutional Court should turn out as the tip of the iceberg, as it looks like, it will be more than difficult to fight family dynasties and money politics throughout the huge Indonesian archipelago.
By the way: Partyforumseasia has other (possible) family dynasties on its radar:
Thailand: Not only sister Yingluck, but also son Panthongtae Shinawatra
Malaysia: Mukhriz Mahathir from UMNO and Nik Abduh from PAS
Singapore: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, a successful succession with a long break after his father resigned.

Golkar caught red-handed again


Partyforumseasia: Jon S.T.Quah has chosen a very telling title for his new book, published by ISEAS, Singapore, this year: Curbing Corruption in Asian Countries. An Impossible Dream?The latest political corruption scandal in Indonesia seems to underline the impossibility of the dream. Too much money is at stake, too costly are the election campaigns, too greedy the political players, and too toothless the anti-corruption programs of the government.Banten 3
The Golkar Party seems to be especially vulnerable after rolling in money for decades as the main political instrument of president Suharto who was more than well known for the corrupt practices of his extended family. Indonesia expert Marcus Mietzner* from Sidney University reports that Suharto withheld 100 million US$ from Golkar party funds after his fall in 1998. This gives an idea of the financial dimensions the party was used to.
But Suharto also urged his cronies not to show their wealth with too flashy villas. This advice has obviously been forgotten by Banten governor Ms Ratu Atut and her billionaire family empire. If being known for their collection of Maseratis and Lamborghinis alone was incautious, a direct involvement of the clan in the bribery scandal around the chief justice of the Constitutional Court is a graver political mistake. Madam governor’s youngest brother is accused of offering 1 b Rupiah (about 92,000 US$) to the judge for a favorable decision in an election dispute. A number of Ms Ratu Atut’s close relatives are mayors or district chiefs in Banten province close to Jakarta…And Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie, himself one of the richest businessmen in Indonesia, is being quoted as saying that the problem is not the political dynasty!

*Mietzner, Marcus (2007), Party Financing in Post-Soeharto Indonesia: Between State Subsidies and Political Corruption, in: Contemporary Southeast Asia, Vol. 29, No. 2:241