Megawati Sukarnoputri continues to dominate Indonesias’s PDI-P


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.

Partai Solidaritas Indonesia: A Niche Party or More?


Partyforumseasia: Indonesia has been rather radical though quite successful in reducing the number of political parties in the democratic era since the ouster of Suharto. An all too splintered party system is risky for a fledgling democracy in many ways, starting from confusing election outcomes and ending in the lack of transparency about vested interests and problematic interference of business influence. President Widodo’s role as leader of the nation is still heavily handicapped with his lack of a parliamentary majority and continuing infighting in parties like Golkar and PPP, this is why stability of the party system is important. Grace Natalie On this background and given the prevailing practices of funding and money politics it may be rather daring to start a new party from scratch. But the leader and figurehead of the new party, 32 year old Grace Natalie, may have some good arguments for her initiative. “She is young and beautiful. Her political party, Partai Solidaritas Indonesia (PSI), or the Indonesian Solidarity Party, was established only in March this year as an “open, pluralist and nationalist” organization. Yet, about a week ago, 32-year old Grace Natalie, former journalist and television presenter, declared that PSI is ready to contest in the 2019 general election. Claiming to be a party by young people and for the young people, the PSI will early this month (June 2015) formally invite Indonesian citizens to register themselves online with the party if they wish to become its cadres or supporters. Registration is made through its website, intro.psi.or.id.” writes the news startup Global Indonesian Voices (Link).

Good looks are getting more important in politics world wide, though former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from Thailand is not the best example in this context because she is in trouble now. But there is certainly a groundswell among Indonesian voters against the same old macho and money style politics, especially among younger voters. The young party seems to have met already the rather demanding organizational requirements of the party law. Grace Natalie says that they have already established chapters in all 34 provinces and in almost all of the 412 regencies/cities with around 1,000 cadres at the provincial and regency/city levels. The Jakarta Post calls Grace Natalie “The anomaly in Indonesian politics” (Link). Yes, an anomaly she is, the strong lady in Indonesia’s politics, Megawati Sukarnoputri, chairperson of PDI-P, is known for a rather authoritarian style which reminds of the Suharto years and what socio-political analyst Julia Suryakusuma has described as “State Ibuism” (see link to Inside Indonesia for an update on this concept).

Indonesia: The Hidden Price of Aklamasi


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. MegaJokowi

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).

Patronage: Party Members as Greedy as Poor Voters!


Partyforumseasia: “Voter Demands for Patronage: Evidence from Indonesia” is the title of a recent research paper by Jae Hyeok Shin, assistant professor of political science at Korea University, in Journal of East Asian Studies 15 (2015), 127-151. Based on field studies in selected suburbs of Jakarta by means of interviews and questionnaires, the results more or less confirm the hypothesis with which it started, namely that poorer and less educated respondents are more interested in individual benefits or patronage and much less in long term policies like education and health care. THB donationsThe study is theoretically based on the vast political science literature discussing whether patronage is more demand or supply-side driven. For the political practitioner the difference looks trivial in view of the complexity of political cultures in Southeast Asia. As usual, it needs two to tango, and developed democracies know more or less subtle examples of patronage as well. Though the paper derives its results from asking the voters and does not discuss the viewpoints of politicians and their constraints in such an environment, it is certainly laudable to do this research in the field, even when the rural parts of Indonesia are left out.

One of the most interesting findings, however, is that “politically active, wealthy voters tend to desire patronage as strongly as do politically inactive poor voters”.

Not too surprising for the political practitioner, the poor know how to calculate anyway by necessity. But members and supporters of political parties are not only idealists either. Ironically, PDI-P sticks out here with high results. And the ongoing debate on the “rivers of money” from Malaysia’s UMNO is certainly another case in point.
Partyforumseasia would strongly encourage more research in this important area since money politics in Southeast Asia is one of our constant concerns. Maybe the scholars could avoid the cliché of “poor and uneducated voters” as greedy simpletons. These people understand quite well what the political elites are up to and they see their own advantage before and on election day!
See also our paper “Party Funding and Party Finances in Southeast Asia”
(by Wolfgang Sachsenröder), available at http://www.academia.edu

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.

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!

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.

 

Mega – Strategy – Pro Jokowi?


MegaThe 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 Jokowicrystal 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.
Merdeka.com 17.2.14
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