“Anomaly in Indonesian Politics” Normalized?


 

“The Anomaly in Indonesian Politics”, this is how The Jakarta Post, in April last year, called Grace Natalie and her newly founded Indonesian Solidarity Party Grace Natalie(PSI) (LINK), and Partyforumseasia asked whether it would be a niche party or more (LINK). Founder and chairwoman of the new party, 34 year old Grace Natalie, has come a very big step closer to her dream to establish a youthful alternative to the macho-and-money dominated party scene of Indonesia – against the odds of efforts to reduce the number of political parties. On Friday, 7 October, Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna H Laoly officially announced that PSI had been granted a legal entity status. Accordingly, it is allowed to contest in the 2019 legislative election.

PSI is meant to be a “party by young people and for the young people”. Accordingly, only people up to the age of 45 maximum can be elected to the party’s boards of management from the national level down to the sub-districts. According to Law No. 2 Year 2011 on political parties, the requirements for registration are the following:

They must have a chapter in all provinces across the country.

At least 75 percent of the total districts/cities within that province must have a party chapter.

At least 50 percent of the total sub-districts within the district/city must have a party chapter.

All local chapters must have an office that can be verified.

Four other parties who applied at the same time have been rejected for not meeting the requirements. Global Indonesian Voices, a startup publication, speculates that about ten new parties will contest in the next elections, due by 2019 (LINK):
“The 10 new parties may include Partai Persatuan Indonesia (Perindo, or Indonesia Unity Party) owned by prominent businessman Hary Tanoesoedibjo; Partai Kedaulatan Bangsa Indonesia Baru (PKBIB, or National Sovereignty Party for New Indonesia) which is jointly formed by Yenny Wahid and Kartika Sjahrir; Partai Nasional Republik (Nasrep, or  Republic National Party) which is owned by Tommy Soeharto; and Partai Solidaritas Indonesia (PSI, or Indonesia Solidarity Party) which was founded by Grace Natalie.”


Grace Natalie, founder and chair of the party, doubly minority with her Chinese and Christian background, is optimistic about the echo among the younger generations, though these days Islamist demonstrations against the similarly minoritarian  Governor of Jakarta, “Ahok“, who is running for re-election, are somewhat alarming.

All over the world, anti-establishment sentiments are encouraging alternative movements and political parties to participate in elections and win. Youngspiration is a new localist party in Hongkong, founded in early 2015, and winning two seats in the Legislative Council (Ledgco) recently. Since both elected members are advocating Hong Kong’s independence from China, the establishment majority of the Legco, last Wednesday 19 October, walked out to prevent the “rebels” from being sworn in.

Maybe the oldest youth party in recent history is Fidesz in Hungary, a party which started in 1988 as a student movement against communism, accepting members only up to 40 in order to exclude any communist turncoat, but morphed in recent years into the role of the dominant and ruling party. Victor Orban, one of the founders, is now Prime Minister of Hungary, and seen by the rest of Europe as an authoritarian right winger.

Mega Power – Mega’s Party Congress


Partyforumseasia:  As much as this forum supports female participation and leadership in politics, it hears alarm bells in the language used to report Megawati Sukarnoputri’s (aka “Mega”)  re-acclamation (not re-election!!) as leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (PDI-P) over this weekend in a party congress in Bali. PDI-P, with 109 mandates, is the biggest party in the Indonesian parliament and brought President Joko Widodo or Jokowi to power.
MegaJokowi3



Ms Megawati
, the sixty-eight year old former president and daughter of Indonesia’s founding president Sukarno is leading the party since 1999 and has now been confirmed for another five years. Not openly challenged, she lashed out nevertheless at “opportunists eying the presidency”, thus being seen as insisting on her towering role and supreme command, and reminding the cadres that they are “servants of the party“. That reminds somehow of Louis XIV’s famous dictum “L’état c’est moi” or “The state, it is I”.  But in a patriarchal society like Indonesia female leadership is certainly not easy. Megawati warned already at the beginning of the congress that cadres who don’t fall in line with the party will be ousted.

As much as Megawati may feel that President Jokowi owes his election mainly to her, it will endanger his presidency if he is being seen as her puppet. That is, by the way, a wonderful theme for the country’s witty and rather disrespectful cartoonists. With the proverbial Javanese courtesy Jokowi avoids direct confrontation, but the relationship is getting more difficult the longer he is in office.

Another worrying sign of potentially dangerous leadership hubris, maybe with a pinch of “megalomania”, is the list of handpicked loyalist appointees for the top 27 key party positions, including her two children,  daughter Puan Maharani, Minister for Human Development and Culture, who chairs the Committee on Politics and Security, and son Prananda Prabowo who will lead the Creative Economy Committee. Close loyalist Hasto Kristiyanto has been promoted to secretary-general.

Strategy-wise: Handpicking loyalists is, of course, quite common in party politics. But the inherent danger lies in a lack of corrective dialogue and contradiction by all too subservient loyalists in case the great leader has a bad idea. As the Roman political orator and writer Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote some 2059 years ago, you can learn more from an enemy than from compliant friends.