Coalition Strategies in Malaysia: Barisan Component Parties No Longer Needed?


Partyforumseasia: The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) 150px-Flag_of_the_Malaysian_Chinese_Association.svghas been thriving for decades as appendix of UMNO, helping to secure its absolute majority by bringing in substantial numbers of Chinese votes as a regular dowry and a counterbalance to the Chinese opposition DAP. Formation and success of the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition and the multi-racial approach of its Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) as well as the growing attractiveness of the DAP for Chinese voters have undermined MCA’s traditional role. Factional infighting has crippled the party for some time already and the extremely narrow results in the recent internal elections may herald the further decline of what was once Malaysia’s second biggest political party. In 2008 it still won 15 parliamentary and 31 state seats, in May 2013 only 7 and 11 seats respectively. But, as it was pampered by big brother UMNO with ministerial portfolios and business opportunities during its heydays, MCA is still very rich. According to a Straits Times article on 22 December the party assets are estimated at nearly 3 billion RM, which comes to over 900 million US$. These assets, land, buildings, companies (Huaren Holdings) and a 42% stake in the Star daily may keep the leadership posts embattled. 2,325 delegates elected president and deputy president, four vice-presidents and 25 central committee members, and Mr. Liow Tiong Lai has won the presidency by just 26 votes.
MCA results

Strategic Lessons: Piggy rides are dangerous coalition strategies. Junior partners have to maintain their usefulness for big brother or risk decline. Assets may keep them alive for some time but not for long.

Difficult to compare but interesting:
The German Free Democratic Party (FDP), a long term successful piggy rider in various coalitions, has lost all seats in the federal parliament in September this year. Its survival may be more difficult than for MCA because it has no assets…

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

 

Pardoned Challenger Returns for Cambodia Elections on 19 July


RainsyPartyforumseasia: The Cambodian election campaign is getting a bit more interesting. Two weeks before election day on 28 July, King Norodom Sihamoni has pardoned opposition leader Sam Rainsy King Norodom Sihamoniwho will return from exile in France to Phnom Penh on the 19th. The pardon comes at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen “in a spirit of reconciliation”. Sam Rainsy is not too optimistic on his Facebook page that his return can really challenge the expected CPP victory: “In the short time that has been made available, I hope to be able to meet my fellow countrymen to discuss their concerns and to hold discussions with leaders of all political parties on the best way foward for Cambodia.” He knows quite well that PM Hun Sen would not take the risk of losing just for the spirit of reconciliation. Nevertheless, some gains for the united opposition which runs as Cambodia National Rescue Party can be expected – an interesting development after the Malaysian GE in May and the Singaporean by-election in March this year.

But there is a high probability that PM Hun Sen Hun Sen neuwill keep smiling after the election.

Indonesia’s PKS: No Party of Angels…


Engel
Partyforumseasia: Busyro Muqoddas, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK) of Indonesia, has called the Prosperous Justice Party PKS “not a party of angels”. The latest series of scandals has been highlighted by John Mcbeth in the Straits Times of July 2d 2013. Here is a part of his report:PKS
Apart from doubts about the complete innocence of angels – even these famous ones by Raffael have some mischevious twinkle in the corner of their eyes – Partyforumseasia does not know any party of angels in this world. The question is whether Indonesians are so used to corrupt politics and politicians that they don’t expect angel parties or somewhat cleaner than the others-parties any more.
Another interesting observation of Mcbeth is the split between more religious and ideological PKS members and the more secular pragmatists who adapt to a more affluent lifestyle and don’t mind to make some bucks in the shadow. Only the next elections will show whether voters seriously mind corruption in a major Islamist party or take political corruption for granted.

Respect: UMNO’s Internal Election Reform


VitalsratistixPartyforumseasia: UMNO is getting serious in renewing the less than perfect internal election procedures. After 26 years of pre-democratically choosing the party president and his deputy without voting and by acclamation, this method described and  ridiculed in Asterix’s old Gaul, comes to an end. In the upcoming party elections, probably between mid July and mid August, UMNO will come back to a proper election of the two top leaders. It will remain to be seen whether the election will be competitive or not, and if yes, who will have the courage to openly challenge Prime Minister Najib.
Whether he will like it or not, the voting might show his support level in the party, at least by abstentions, spoiled or no votes.

The other part of the reform will expand the number of delegates with voting rights from 2,500 to 146,500, probably enough to make vote buying too expensive even for the richest UMNO members with ambitions for local leadership posts.
See also the short overview on the reform compiled by Singapore’s Straits Times of 29 June:
UMNO new voting system

Beginning of the End of Indonesian Money Politics?


WidodoPartyforumseasia: Will this man change the endemic political corruption in Indonesia? Joko Widodo, the governor of Jakarta, seems to meet the expectations of a growing number of Indonesians fed up ad nauseam with big style money politics in their country. President SBY turning out more and more as a lame duck at the end of his term, popular darling “Jokowi”, as the former mayor of Solo is affectionately known, may be the early front runner in the presidential race for next year.
In a recent poll by think tank CSIS Widodo leads with 28.6% in front of former general Prabowo from the Gerindra Party with 15.6 %. Golkar chairman and business tycoon Abdurizal Bakrie, in strong headwind after scandals, comes third with 7%, and PDI-P long term leader Megawati Sukarnoputri is nearly written off at 5.4%.

The humble style of Widodo, e.g. using the office driver but in his private car, obviously meets the dreams of many voters of an approachable politician who is not showing the usual priority of lining his own and his party’s pockets. One of the leading experts on Indonesian money politics, Marcus Mietzner from the Australian National University, estimates the campaign cost for the governorship of an average Indonesian province at a staggering 10 million US$. The popular dream of cleaner politics may pick up with Jokowi. So more parties than his own PDI-P are eying him as their own presidential candidate…

Indonesia’s Democratic Party: President SBY new chairman


Links: Straits Times(30.3.2013), Straits Times (31.3.2013), Jakarta Post (31.3.)
SBY ChairPartyforumseasia: The rescue operation for the somewhat “anorexic” Democratic Party by an extraordinary convention in Bali on 30 March 2013 has worked as planned.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
(SBY), with acclamation ( not vote) of the delegates,  has taken over the chairmanship after former chair Anas Urbaningrum had stepped down under corruption suspicion. Other candidates were being discussed, but only SBY himself was supposed to be elected without exposing the internal cleavages of the party in which Anas still enjoys major support among members and local leaders. SBY, after being elected, called for unity and cohesion, but critics say that the concentration of power is not healthy. The president who looked reluctant to take over and only under the condition that an executive chairman (to be appointed by SBY!!) does the day-to-day work, now chairs the party’s central executive committee and supreme assembly as well as the board of patrons, and his son Edhi Baskoro Yudhoyono is secretary-general.

As a sideline, the reports reveal a few details about the organizational structure of the Democratic Party: The chairpersons of the 33 provincial branches had prepared the convention by seeing the president beforehand in Jakarta “to pledge support for him”. The Bali convention assembled 754 party cadres with voting rights from provincial, district and city heads plus several other party elites. Interesting and allowing a glimpse into the internal cleavages was the exclusion from the Bali convention of former Cilacap district chairman Tri Dianto because he had no more voting rights. He happened to be one of the possible successors of Anas as new chairman…
Strategy-wise the exercise could unite the party in preparation of and until the 2014 elections, but, as it happens in medical practice, it could also turn out to be a successful emergency operation leaving the patient dying nevertheless. With SBY’s presidency definitively ending in 2014, the struggle for his succession is visibly on in the Democratic Party.
Follow-up:
Link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/03/31/sby-names-minister-dems-executive-chairman.html
SBY names minister as Dems executive chairman
Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua | National | Sun, March 31 2013, 12:17 PM
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as the new Democratic Party chairman, has appointed Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Syariefuddin Hasan as the party’s executive chairman. “The executive chairman will be more active in dealing with the party’s organizational matters and its other day-to-day business,” Yudhoyono told a press conference in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Sunday. Yudhoyono also announced that House of Representatives speaker Marzuki Alie had been appointed to serve as the deputy chairman of the supreme assembly, the party’s highest organ. Transportation Minister EE Mangindaan has been named the executive chairman of the party’s board of patrons. Yudhoyono has asked for the creation of the three positions to ease his duties in the Democratic Party after he was appointed as the party’s chairman in an extra-ordinary congress in Sanur, Bali. Yudhoyono said he accepted the proposal to name him the party chairman as long as it would not hinder him from his main duties as a state leader.Currently, Yudhoyono also serves as the party’s supreme assembly chairman, honorary council chairman and chief patron. “The formatur (formation of new appointments) has begun and these three positions are part of the initial results. We will continue to work in Jakarta and announce the results in the days ahead,” Yudhoyono said. Both Mangindaan and Marzuki said they did not know what other positions Yudhoyono would reshuffle. A rumor was circulating that the party’s secretary general, Edhie “Ibas” Baskoro Yudhoyono, the President’s youngest son, would leave his position because he would study in the US. Marzuki said Ibas should stay in his position as secretary general. “He has capability and his work in the party has been good so far,” he said, adding that he did not know about the rumor of Ibas’ plan to study in the US. (ebf)
Partyforumseasia:
More appointments than elections and rumors, the price parties pay for strong leadership.


 

Indonesia’s PKS: The serious side of “sausage politics”


Partyforumseasia: The (Islamist) Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) had won 7.34 % in the 2004 election on its anti-corruption stance and promise of good governance, and probably profited as well from its credibility among religious voters. So the arrest and indictment for corruption of former leader Luthfi Hassan Ishaaq in January has heavily dented the credibility of the party. The recent re-election of West Java governor Ahmad Heryawan and his running mate Deddy “Demiz” Mizwar ( see link: “The awesome power of sausage politics“) must be seen as an attempt to counter the loss of credibility by using a popular PR-professional as running mate. It would probably be wrong for the party to take the governor’s re-election as a sign that the voters are forgetful.
PKS 22.3.13

Source / link: Straits Times, 22.3.2013

Indonesia’s Democratic Party: Doomed without SBY?


Partyforumseasia: The dramatic exit of Anas Urbaningrum as chairman of the Democratic Party under suspicion of corruption might ring in the end or at least the end of its lead in the Indonesian political landscape. The party which owed so much of its electoral success to the popularity of president Yudhoyono (SBY) and is widely seen as “the president’s party”, is down to only 8% in recent polls, far down from its 21% in 2009. Since SBY cannot run again in 2014 after ending his second term, the party suffers badly from corruption allegations and lack of clear leadership alternatives. The situation could get even worse if Anas came up with more dirty linen from inside the leadership as he vaguely threatens.
See also: http://epaper.straitstimes.com/fvx/fvxp/fvxpress.php?param=2013-02-24
Indo DP 24.2.13a

“Indonesian Lessons” ??!!!


See: Vedi R. Hadiz, Democracy and Money politics – The case of Indonesia, in: Robison, Richard (ed), Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics, 2012, pp.71-82

Partyforumseasia: Hadiz’s sober assessment on page 78 underlines our thesis that the constant use of Duvergerian (and followers’) paradigms will miss the point.
Erally Indo
Left:

Colourful campaigning (PPP) Indonesian fun style.

“The Indonesian experience since 1998 reiterates the necessity of reassessing conventional renderings of electoral politics and of political parties. It is hardly useful to label Indonesia’s parties as ‘immature’, ‘irrational’ or ‘neo-patrimonial’ on the basis of idealized notions of party roles in Western liberal democracies. In the context of post-authoritarian societies like Indonesia, political parties as they exist currently – able to utilize money politics and even political thuggery when necessary – are quite suited for the purposes of the range of predatory interests that dominate them. It may be said that there is an internal logic to political party life and electoral competition that does not make internal transformations very likely in the foreseeable future. In fact, given the experience of democracies which have emerged in recent times, such as those in Southeast Asia, the liberal pluralist model associated with the Western experience may become increasingly exceptional.”