President Joko Widodo and Vice President Ma’ruf Amin
Partyforumseasia: While the Western tradition in politics and logic sees white and black as dominant categories, Indonesia has developed a fascinating way of validating the oscillating variations of changing gray scales, with some white and some black remaining at the margins. That is certainly helpful for the formation of compromises in politics and may prevent differences of opinion to develop too easily into open enmity. However, it can lead to positive or to negative outcomes. There are three very recent events to illustrate that:
1. Leadership posts in Parliament
The predominantly positive one is a compromise to enable all parties to get leadership posts in both houses of Parliament, the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD). At least there is an agreement to amend the legislation accordingly. The move was triggered by a compromise between the dominant ruling party PDI-P and the biggest opposition party Gerindra, which had supported the former general Prabowo against the re-elected President Jokowi, to form an alliance of leadership in the MPR. Since this, in turn, irked the smaller coalition parties, the magic gray scale solution is now to give all parties a part of the leadership. Typically Indonesian? The trick might not work in other countries.
But Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo (PDI-P) is cautious himself. The Jakarta Post as of 19th September quotes him as saying: “Hopefully, after this amendment, every policy-making process in the MPR can be done through a consensus, without opposition. (…) as the MPR leadership posts would automatically guarantee that all parties would pass,”
2. The Corruption Eradication Commission weakened
The second event looks like a gray scale compromise in Parliament but seems to be much less acceptable for the voters. The popular support for the respected Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had so far been shared by President Jokowi and protected the organization against a number of attacks against its independence and its power to bring a number of corrupt politicians into prison. Probably the most spectacular case was the conviction of former Golkar leader and former speaker of Parliament Setya Novanto, sentenced to 15 years in jail in April 2018 for corruption and embezzlement in a huge scam in Parliament.
In a rather unusual “par force legislation”, on 17th September, the outgoing Parliament amended a number of regulations for the KPK which are clearly reducing the independence and powers of the institution. The changes, described as “emasculation” of the graft buster by critics, are as follows: The KPK has only two years to compile a case file, often not enough for the complex high level corruption cases. The KPK will become part of the executive branch and the employees will become state civil servants. The independence as an institution is gone. The supervisory board will be chosen by the House of Representatives through a selection committee formed by the President and has to decide on operational details like wire tapping which was one of the most potent tools. This may slow down ongoing investigations.
One of the gray scale aspects of the changes is the widely accepted practice of politicians and political parties to generate their income by syphoning away a high percentage from the development and infrastructure projects of the central and provincial governments, known as “pencaloan anggara” or “budget scalping”.
3. Amendments to the penal code
Another gray scale development is the creeping “Saudi-Arabization” of the traditionally more tolerant Indonesian Islam. One of the central projects of Islamist organizations and politicians is the reform of the penal code by amendments. But what lawyers, women’s and human rights groups had expected to be passed by the outgoing parliament last week was actually stopped by a hesitant president and referred to further clarification by the new parliament when it starts by next month. President Jokowi was attacked during his re-election campaign for an alleged lack of Muslim credentials, and has to be cautious. The Criminal Bill draft with its 628 articles was indeed containing many Shariah elements and tried to implement them on the national level, with many similar regulations already in force in the provinces, Aceh being the most radical of them. The proposed changes included punishing sex outside marriage with imprisonment of up to one year, which, since gay marriage is not allowed, would criminalize gay and lesbian sex without even mentioning these groups. It also banned the access to contraceptives for women under 18, and reduced the rights of religious minorities. Especially the interference into the very private affairs of the citizens may overstretch the flexibility of any gray scale compromise and damage the Wahabi model from Saudi Arabia in the complex and pluralistic society of Indonesia.
Partyforumseasia: When Mrs. Megawati was Vice-President of Indonesia between 1999 and 2001, the visually handicapped President Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur was describing the two as: “We’re the best team, I can’t see and she can’t speak.” She may not be an exciting public speaker, but the political influence of the daughter of Indonesia’s founding President Sukarno is absolutely remarkable. Last Thursday, August 8th, she was re-elected as chair of her PDI-P party by acclamation, even before her accountability speech for the last five years of her already 20 years of leadership. And she also denied the rumors that, due to her age of 72, she would hand over her day-to-day duties to daughter Puan Maharani and son Prananda Prabowo. Chairing the party since 1999, Megawati, or Mega, in short, is a constant factor in the country’s democratic journey since the end of the autocratic Suharto era in 1998.
Megawati’s authority in the party is unchallenged. The delegates at the national party congress in Bali, representing 34 provinces and more than 500 regencies and cities, as well as the central board leaders, were far from changing their ” winning horse”. With 109 MPs and 19.3 % of the 140 million eligible voters, PDI-P is not only the biggest party in the Indonesian Parliament but has also successfully supported the re-election of President Joko Widodo.
As it happens often enough, a ruling party attracts more and more support and the willingness of smaller parties to join in as coalition partners. For a long time after President Jokowi’s victory in the April 2019 election, his losing challenger, former general Prabowo, had protested against the results because he alleged massive fraud. So, Prabowo’s participation in the Bali PDI-P convention is a possible landmark for reconciliation, maybe even for entry of his Gerindra party into the ruling coalition. Mrs. Megawati may not be a fiery public speaker but obviously a convincing mediator at the end, which certainly is a blessing for the political stability and further democratic development of Indonesia.
Partyforumseasia: A nation with over 190 million eligible voters is preparing for the presidential and legislative elections on 17 April in an increasingly feverish atmosphere. The presidential contenders, incumbent President Joko Widodo or Jokowi and his narrowly defeated challenger from five years ago, former general Prabowo Subianto, have used strategically chosen vice-presidential candidates and met in a series of public debates without clear winners. But Jokowi is still leading in the polls, as usual with a shrinking margin over Prabowo to keep the race exciting for the last days of campaigning.
In the huge Indonesian archipelago with more than 17.000 islands, over 300 ethnic groups, and very different levels of development and modernization, the organizational challenges of nationwide elections are already immense. But the young Indonesian democracy has so far shown quite a decent outcome, despite many flaws and open flanks. One is the ubiquitous vote-buying, which is also rampant in most countries in Southeast Asia. Because of a major 170 m US$ financial scandal with the introduction of identity cards, for which former house speaker Setya Novanto is serving 15 years in jail, several million voters without the ID card may be excluded from voting. Novanto was also a chairman of the Golkar party. Recently another Golkar parliamentarian, Bowo Sidik Pangarso, was caught with thousands of envelopes filled with cash in different denominations. At least a third of the voters have received cash for votes in the past, and according to polls, most voters accept that as normal, while for the many poor Indonesians some election cash is most welcome anyway. And the thumb rule is evident: Poor candidates never win a mandate,
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), though, is trying to stem the tide. A poster is urging the voters not to accept money: “Berani tolak gratifikasi” or “dare to refuse gratifications”. It may not be more than a starting point for a future change in election culture. The financial appetite of the political parties is an indicator that the candidates are still relying on cash handouts and other donations to their constituencies in the form of funds for mosques and sports facilities and the like. This is why, before the next president is confirmed, the horse trading for future coalitions and cabinet posts is already in full swing. Talking to journalists, Prabowo’s brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, revealed that in case of their victory, they would give seven ministerial posts to the National Mandate Party (PAN), and six to the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), two important members of their campaign coalition. Ministerial posts are the key to the huge number of development and infrastructure projects which serve as cash cows for parties and members of parliament to recoup the inevitable campaign costs. The skimming of these projects at a rate of between 10 and 30 percent is called “pencaloan anggaran” or “budget scalping“.
Another development looks more promising for Indonesia’s democratic progress. Among the 8000 odd candidates for the 575 seats in parliament are no less than 3,200 or roughly 40% women. The parties are forced by law to field at least 30% female candidates, but the numbers are going up. In the outgoing house, 17% of the MPs are female, so it will be interesting to see the outcome this year. The increasingly conservative mood in predominantly Muslim Indonesia is not really conducive for female careers in politics and business. But many younger women are just running with a scarf and all. Religious credentials play a strong role in this election. This is why incumbent presidential candidate Joko Widodo has chosen a leading Muslim cleric as his running mate.
For an overview of money politics in Southeast Asia see: ISBN: 978-981-3230-73-6
Partyforumseasia: The Empire versus KPK
Only a week ago, we published a post with the headline “Indonesia’s Struggle Against Political Corruption” (LINK). The saga goes on and the drama may unfold or not. Whether it will follow the patterns of antique Greek drama and end with the catharsis or cleansing as an ethical benefit for the people of Indonesia is still everybody’s guess.
Golkar chairman and speaker of parliament Setya Novanto was named as a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in a political corruption case of exceptional dimensions. He dodged the hearings he should have attended recently by protesting heart problems but was eventually cleared by doctors to be fit enough. But buying time by being sick has helped him again to evade the KPK. On Friday, 29 September, South Jakarta District Court judge Cepi Iskandar declared that the court approved Mr Setya’s pre-trial motion challenging his status as a suspect in the case: “We declare invalid the suspect status against Setya Novanto dated July 17, 2017.” Everybody will be curious about the reasons.
However, after losing this round, the KPK is trying to find out how to proceed and possibly win the next round. If it manages to survive and can do so. Under the headline “A PLOT TO KILL KPK“, on 20 July, the influential news magazine Tempo had already suspected an attempt by powerful forces inside the parliament to weaken or crush the KPK by establishing a special “KPK Right-of-Inquiry Special Committee, or “pansus” in Indonesian
“An investigation by this magazine has discovered that the pansus was established with a three-layered aim: dissolve the KPK, paralyze it by reducing its powers, or at the very least remove the main investigators who have been at the vanguard of corruption investigations.” (LINK)
The ongoing power struggle is widely seen as the transparent attempt of Novanto and many other political figures to maintain the prevailing impunity for apparent abuse of the insufficient political funding regulations in Indonesia. Marcus Mietzner, one of the leading experts on the country’s political system, called them “Dysfunction by Design” in a 2015research paper…
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.
Partyforumseasia: According to the World Population Report, Indonesia’s capital has more than ten million inhabitants. The local media count more than seven million eligible voters for the second round of the gubernatorial election which has started this morning, Wednesday, 19th April. In the early afternoon, private polls report a small lead for the former education minister Anies Baswedan over incumbant Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or “Ahok”. Ahok was considered to win the election easily after taking over from president Jokowi after the latter moved to the presidential palace in 2014. Ahok was known as a decisive administrator, cleaning up the mega-city in many ways, but somewhat arrogant and brash which does not go well with the traditional Javanese politeness. But the decisive setback was the lawsuit for blasphemy under Articles 156 and 156a of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) , started by his enemies. In September 2016, Ahok had discounted claims that the Quran forbids the election of Christians and Jews to public office, and Ahok is in a double minority role as ethnic Chinese and Christian. Since the case is still pending, Ahok faced a severe handicap in his campaign, though his efficiency as governor has kept him a strong following. But the controversy and the huge rallies organized by powerful conservative Muslim organizations have divided the Jakarta electorate, so that the voter turnout today is expected to exceed the 77% of the first round in February. Security measures are tight, under the threat of Muslim zealots intimidating Muslim Ahok supporters, more than 60,000 policemen are deployed around the polling centers.
Beside the outburst of religious sentiments on an unprecedented level, the religious parties being not too successful otherwise, this election is also highlighting other peculiarities in the dynamic political development of Indonesia’s democracy . Like in most countries in Southeast Asia, money politics and vote buying are rather common. The Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) has warned against smear campaigns and vote-buying attempts, while numerous such violations are already under investigation. For the poorer voters it can start with staple food donations which are disguised as religious alms giving, but money is changing hands as well, and the manipulation attempts can reach practically all the 13, 034 polling stations.
The Indonesian Corruption Watch, many NGO’s, and of course the political parties behind the candidates, try to monitor the election process and have set up hotlines for reports by the public. Final and official results are not expected before end of the month.
Partyforumseasia: As reported, the recent Bali congress of the PDI-P has “reelected” Megawati Sukarnoputri by acclamation. With the weight of her family background as daughter of the nation’s founding president she would have won a real election as well, but the political culture has not yet arrived there. Not all Indonesians and certainly not all PDI-P members like this procedure, but if unconditional allegiance to the party line is being promoted before and during the congress, open internal dissent is not very probable.
Photo: A traditional gesture of respect, but the matriarch seems to appreciate more than that.
The more vitriolic were media comments on “aklamasi”. The Jakarta Post quotes the definition of the English word acclamation as: “a vote to accept or approve someone or something that is done by cheers, shouts, or applause” (Merriam-Webster).
The comment (link here) continues:
“But in the Indonesian context, the dictionary’s definition sounds euphemistic. In order for any political party chief to be elected by way of aklamasi, they have to exert formidable political and financial resources for backroom lobbying ahead of a national party congress.
This way, the congress is nothing but a ceremony to formalize the “election” or “reelection” of party leaders without the participants actually casting their ballots. All party executives who have voting rights have been effectively mobilized during preparatory meetings to agree to give their incumbent chief another term by way musyawarah-mufakat (deliberation for consensus). It is in this forum that the real battle happens.
Then when the party congress opens, the committee announces the aklamasi while the participants accept it by thunderous cheers, shouts, or applause. No objections are raised. What a sweet moment for the (re-)elected chief!”
The paper criticizes that “aklamasi” is a relic of Suharto’s New Order dictatorship but still widely practiced in the country:
“The dominant strong, charismatic leaders, such as the PDI-P’s Megawati, the Democratic Party’s Yudhoyono, Gerindra’s Prabowo and the NasDem Party’s Surya Paloh, has given rise to the prevailing feudalistic aklamasi election tactic. They are highly revered because they are founders of their respective parties. So powerful and revered are they, they have practically become cult leaders. Dissent is easily silenced. A member’s political rise often depends on his or her loyalty to the supreme leader instead of on real merit.”
The conclusion of the article is certainly correct, but reveals a sad undertone: “The politics of aklamasi proves that oligarchies give rise to political corruption, cronyism and dynasties. Public trust is wearing thin as political parties are failing to prepare future national leaders and to promote democracy.”
Other prominent Indonesian publications like The Jakarta Globe (link here) and Tempo (link here) are similarly critical about these shortcomings which are too visible for the country’s voters and undermine the belief in fast consolidation of Indonesia’s fledgling democracy. Especially detrimental are promotions of sycophants in the party hierarchy, even if they have been under suspicion of corruption.
By coincidence, The Economist, a British news magazine, has taken up the topic of dynasties in business and politics in its newest edition (April 18th – 24th 2015).
Strategy-wise: Blood is thicker than water, and too many leaders trust bootlickers more than courageous people who tell them unpleasant truths. Democratic procedures inside the parties are still underdeveloped in Indonesia.
Finally: Trust is good, control is better (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov alias Lenin).
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.
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.
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
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!
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).
Golkar 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.
The 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.
The 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…
Partyforumseasia: After this year’s successful parliamentary and presidential elections Indonesia certainly deserves unrestricted praise for the consolidation of its young democracy. Organizing this campaigning and election marathon in densely populated Java and the 13.400 islands with 193.000.000 registered voters is a Herculean task.
In this administrative dimension glitches are unavoidable, but they were far from the systemic irregularities alleged by losing presidential candidate Prabowo.
So far the brighter side of Indonesia’s political development.
But there are also some all too visible shadows in the overall picture! One major dark area is being highlighted by prominent observer and commentator Julia Suryakusuma in her regular Wednesday column in the Jakarta Post http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/09/03/depok-potholes-and-a-new-breed-leaders.html
With the sobering example of inefficient local government in Depok, a suburb of Jakarta with the reputation of being the second most corrupt city in the country (“Fifty shades of Gray”), Suryakusuma describes why the outspoken public intellectual Rizal, a citizen in this area, decides to run for mayor. The “Jokowi effect” could mean that Indonesians take up their responsibility as citizens and shed the long years as subjects under a political class with obvious vested interests. Like all over Southeast Asia, the country has too many politicians who see politics as business and not according to Max Weber’s famous definition of “politics as a vocation”.
Rizal could set an example and a new generation of politicians with vocation following the election of Joko Widodo would certainly be good for Indonesia.
Partyforumseasia: Joko Widodo’s victory in the recent presidential election in Indonesia has been praised for many reasons. Jokowi as ordinary citizen against establishment and big money, boost of the country’s fledgling democratic culture against vested financial interests, and most important, a clean politician against the more dubious figure of contender Prabowo. As one prominent observer in the Jakarta Post wrote: A checkered shirt against a checkered past, meaning the doubts on ex-general Prabowo’s human rights record.
The Prabowo campaign nearly performed miracles in catching up with the poll figures which showed Jokowi miles ahead in the beginning. The two campaigns were indeed very different. The Jokowi – PDIP campaign looked widely amateurish, whereas the deep pockets of the Prabowo camp made a professional performance possible.
After the “dirtiest campaign ever” (Marcus Mietzner), one “professional” feature to be watched more closely is negative campaigning, also known as smear campaign. We had taken up the tasteless “obituary” and the allegations that Jokowi was a Christian of Chinese descent in earlier posts. The final election results among Muslim parties suggest that this poisonous rumor played a role in pulling devout voters into the Prabowo camp.
It would be a bit easier if the dirty campaigning had been home-grown in Indonesia. But it is widely ascribed to American advisers hired into the Prabowo team, namely experts from the US Republicans. Looking into the development of opposition research (“oppo” in the short form) as a thriving new industry is not very reassuring. In an article “Digging dirt, digitally”, The Economist (July 12, 2014 p.30) provides a glimpse into the possible future of negative campaigning. Two big oppo-companies, “America Rising” and “American Bridge 21st Century” are employing so called “trackers” to collect anything which could be used against a candidate. The dilemma for the candidates is, according to The Economist, that “more or less every word a candidate says now lives online somewhere”.
Apart from the smear campaign against Jokowi, Indonesia seems to be relatively innocent so far. But after building a professional polling industry in a few years time, they certainly have the capacity to develop “oppo” mechanisms as fast. There is some hope, though, that President Jokowi will help to create more transparency and cleaner governance in the country.
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. While 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.
According 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.
The coincidence of parliamentary and presidential elections in April makes the next months exciting for Indonesian voters and outside observers alike. Journalists and political analysts are rolling the crystal ball back and forth, but getting reliable information about the strategic debates inside the political parties and their inner circles is more difficult than ever. With outgoing President Yudhoyono the popularity of his Democratic Party being in free fall, opposition PDI-P leader and former President Megawati Sukarnoputri (67) might be tempted to run again herself. But for many the high poll results for Joko Widodo (52, also known as Jokowi), the most popular governor of Jakarta, seem to make his candidacy a much better bet. Megawati, who still commands high respect and loyalty in the party, would probably squander the party’s chance to victory.
At least a growing part of the membership see it this way and try to urge an early nomination with a group called “PDI-P Pro-Jokowi”. A decision against Megawati may remain unthinkable, but intense debates within the PDI-P leadership and among the rank and file members are completely normal. There is no need to dramatize a supposed split in the party. Keeping media, voters and political competitors in the dark and guessing can be a cheap campaign tool in a country with exponentially increasing campaign costs for the parties.
Source of poll results: Merdeka.com 17.2.2104