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: 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…