Sunday, March 23, 2014

Military Ambition in Indonesia

Heading into the 2014 election, Indonesian society is being faced with certain political figures, ranging from businessmen and office holders, to military background figures. However, given many poll surveys, two prominent figures have emerged as the most likely to be the next Indonesian president, namely Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto. Joko Widodo, affectionately known as Jokowi, is Jakarta’s current governor, whereas Prabowo is the chief patron of the Greatest Indonesian Movement Party (Gerindra) as well as a former general of the late President Suharto. Recently, Jokowi has been announced as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) candidate. Thus, the governor Jokowi and former military general, Prabowo will likely dominate the Indonesian political landscape prior to presidential election in September 2014.

After 15 years of democratic consolidation, the big inquiry is whether Indonesia still needs the military style leadership. In the last three general elections, the military candidates have always been involved to run for office. The current president is the former Suharto general who has been in office for two terms. In this 2014 election, at least two former generals have announced their candidacies beside Prabowo, namely former Indonesian military commander Wiranto supported by his party, the Peoples Conscience Party (Hanura) and Sutiyoso, retired army lieutenant general cum Chairman of the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI). The ruling party, Democrat, also is presenting former army chief of staff Pramono Edhie Wibowo as one of its presidential candidates. All of these generals, except Pramono Edhie, served during Suharto’s waning days. And these three generals are also widely believed to have been involved in human rights violations.

Ironically, on the one hand, Indonesian society is hoping to have clean and good leaders, such as Jokowi and Tri Rismaharini, the Surabaya Mayor. On the other hand, as a recent survey shows, many Indonesian voters still prefer a presidential or vice presidential candidate with a military background over a civilian. Three characteristics have been advanced for this preference, namely decisiveness, discipline and firmness. This tendency exemplifies the romance of the Suharto-backed military regime among Indonesians.

The military in Indonesia has two prominent reasons why they have to meddle in daily political life. First, the Indonesian military (TNI) still criticizes the current democratic system. As attributed by Indonesia’s army strategic command head, Lieutenant General Gatot Nurmayanto, Indonesian democracy is not always right for Indonesia. Accordingly, democracy based on popular vote does not always lead to the strengthening of the nation. For some political analysts, this is the picture of a hard-line faction within the TNI to push for more military involvement in Indonesia’s daily politics. 

Second, the TNI has doubted the ability of civilian government to govern. Corruption and immorality have become chronic diseases in the civilian government. As a result, certain political regulations can risk national stabilization, such as the current dispute over the legitimacy of Law No. 42/2008 on presidential and vice presidential elections. As former army intelligence head, Soleman B. Ponto argues, the potential of national chaos is high, given that the law was dismissed by the constitutional court in January 2014. If national chaos develops, the military will launch what Ponto calls a “constitutional coup”. In addition, during my personal interview in 2012 with former Vice Chief Staff of Army, retired Major General Kiki Syanahkri, he expressed the same concern. He thought that the quality degradation of civilian government and intended to take political steps necessary to return to the original version of the 1945 constitution. To support his idea, Kiki and his colleges in the Retired Army Association (PPAD), proposed to form a “national council”. This would allow the military to legitimately engage directly in politics. These statements raise the question about the military’s relentless tendency to take any opportunity to influence or even to take over the civilian government.

Democracy allows for every individual, regardless of their background, to run for office. However, after the downfall of authoritarian regime and the beginning of democratic consolidation, the remnants of a former authoritarian regime, including the military, should be restricted from participating in politics. The former regime was highly backed up by the military in Indonesia during the new order period for over 30 years. This history can give the military the desire to re-engage in the new political system. If it does, there is high possibility for the military to bring back an authoritarian spirit, such as in Egypt and Thailand.

According to the Indonesian constitution, military figures can run for office after resigning from active duty. However, the close relations between former officers and active officers are difficult to overlook. Former officers support the core interests of their institution. This again brings up the question of the future of the TNI reformation that has stalled during the second term of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). Three crucial areas of the TNI’s internal reform could be “blocked” by former senior officers if they get elected.

First and foremost is the uplifting of human rights values among officers. The TNI has been globally known for its human rights record toward its own people. The military internal reformation failed to deal with this issue, particularly in Papua province. The military candidates are likely to defend their former institution. For instance, the prison raid by army special forces (Kopassus) that killed four detainees in Cebongan, drew support and even praise from Prabowo and other former generals, including SBY. In addition, Pramono Edhie Wibowo recently called to forget past violations of human rights conducted by the TNI. 

The second area of army reform which might be left undone is the reorganization or even liquidation of some army territorial commands across country. Many territorial commands at the regional level have been widely alleged to be used for political and economic purposes. As a leading general during the early days of TNI’s reformation, Wiranto supported and defended the existence of the commands. In present day, there are no military candidates have questioned these commands in light of charges of misuse for political purpose and human rights violations.

The third area of military reform needed is the management of its businesses, particularly the illegal ones, such as illegal logging, gambling, and the security business. It seems hard to tackle this issue if some former generals get elected in September, given the fact that the military still highly depends on these off-budget resources.

Given the uncertainty at the national level, Indonesian democracy will arguably allow the military figures to continue their role as decisive political actors as happened during the new order. In contrast, after the era of strong military regimes, certain Latin America countries have produced many strong populist leaders, such as Lula Da Silva and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil; Cristina Fern├índez de Kirchner in Argentine and Evo Morales in Bolivia. These figures can restrict constitutionally military ambition in their countries. They can channel effectively people’s aspirations to support government policies, instead of paving the way to the military to get its second opportunity to govern.

Indonesian politics has never gotten out from under military influence, and certain populist leaders, such as Jokowi and Risma, also appear to rely on military support.   As a result, the future of the Indonesian democratic system remains uncertain.

by Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge

Published in the Eurasia Review, March 21, 2014

Indonesia: Populist Leaders Must Maneuver Corrupt System

Why populist figures in Indonesia are being challenged to maneuver in a corrupt political system. This is a critical inquiry prior to the legislative and presidential elections in upcoming months. This question concerns the populist figures, current Jakarta governor Joko Widodo and Surabaya mayor,Tri Rismaharini. Nationally, both figures have a good and clean reputation, yet they have to face firm challenges from what they have done so far.  Two factors hampering the performance of these outstanding leaders, namely the elites and the oligarchs.
In this article, the phrase the “corrupt political system” refers to a political system which has been dominated and abused by a few powerful people or groups for their own interests. These people consist of elites and oligarchs. I make a clear distinction between these two political concepts. As Jeffrey Winters argues, elites are certain people or groups who have highly concentrated power, such as coercive power, mobilizational power, official or party position, which has been distributed in a highly exclusive way. In contrast, oligarchs are those with significant fortunes who have been attained from the accumulation of economic wealth.
Both elites and oligarchs can have a similar interest in inhibiting potential challenges or radical demands that may pose threats toward them. They can form a collective action through political institution, such as a political party (Slater, 2010). In the case of Joko Widodo, affectionately known as Jokowi, the party “detains” him to meet public desire. Similarly, in Risma’s case, it is not only local parliament but also her own party that has been dominated by businessmen and party elites to take stand against her populist policies.

Party & Oligarch Interests
Jokowi has been performing well to manage Indonesia’s most populated city. In terms of tackling down the problem of severe traffic in Jakarta, Jokowi has been battling the national government regarding the cheap car policy. He prefers to improve the quality of public transportation. Accordingly, Jokowi has turned down the intention of Vice-President Budiono’s offer to sell a low cost green car to Jakarta’s residents. It was widely believed that automobile businessmen were behind this proposal, targeting Indonesia as a potential market for low-priced car.
Above all, the public are looking forward to knowing whether he will run as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle’s (PDIP) presidential candidate. The key, as nationally known, is in the hands of Megawati, the PDIP’s chairwoman. Apparently, Megawati has not given up the possibility of making her third bid to run as the party’s candidate, even though this option is unlikely to increase party’s odds of winning the election.
In the case of Risma, a collaboration of the elite’s party and the oligarchs in parliament was a strong challenge to her public service policies. For instance, as reported by the weekly magazine, Tempo, three cases have prompted Risma to step down as Surabaya’s mayor. The battle over the construction of a toll road across Surabaya was the opening case. Instead of this this project, Risma favored improving the city’s public transportation.  Following this, Surabaya’s city council, supported by the PDIP attempted to oust her, but failed. The rejection by PDIP and its oligarchs’ component continued, when Risma wanted to raise the billboard advertising tax and further angered the city council. In these two cases, the shared interest of businessmen and political elites was obvious motivation behind the rejections. And the strong “punch” to shake Risma’s position was the covert appointment of PDIP’s local head and deputy speaker of the city council: Wisnu Sakti Buana as the new deputy mayor. This decision instantly disappointed Risma, because she knew Wisnu was another attempt to topple her from her position as mayor.

Populism Challenges
Given these facts, the populist figures have apparently been captured by the corrupt political system. On the one hand, they are personality-based figures which differ from mass mobilizational figures, such as Lula Da Silva and Evo Morales in Latin America. Indeed, the cases of Latin America and Indonesia cannot be directly compared, due to their different political and economic systems and societal characteristic. However, as witnessed currently, the personality populist figures have been unable to block political elites and oligarchs as has been done by mass-based figures in Latin America. Lula and Morales could transform their societal support into populist parties. Accordingly, they received full support to impose many populist policies without getting strong resistance from parliament or their own parties.
 In slightly contrast, Jokowi and Risma are elites since they received official positions. Prior to their current positions, these two prominent leaders emerged from the middle class. Jokowi was a carpenter turned politician and Risma was a true-blue bureaucrat. They had no mass political mobilization to challenge established political elites and oligarchs. The only way they had was to enter well-established political party, namely the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) to be eligible to run for governmental positions.
There is a huge gap between elites and grassroots in terms of building strong political influence. In the Indonesia’s modern history, the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) had been widely known for its intimate relationship with the grassroots. The masses could be mobilized to support certain party policies whether in favor or against the government.  However, since the Suharto took over the government in 1966 and built his regime, Indonesian society has been distanced from politics. The concept “floating mass” was widely disseminated by Ali Murtopo, Suharto’s right-hand man. According to it, people would not play any political role or organize any political organization and therefore they would devote all their efforts to economic development. Since then, no populist figures have arisen from the grassroots.
What we are seeing today on the Indonesian political landscape are politician who have come from the middle class. On the on hand, the emergence of populist figures is the answer of a deficient political system. People for a long time have been neglected by the current government, so they need figures to address their problems, creating condition ripe for populism. On the other hand, these figures have no owned political-based organization that can continually draw support from society to impose populist policies. They must frequently abide by party’s rules. Occasionally, the pro-people policies were at odds with the party interests. In this regard, populist policies have to fall in line with the party’s instruction. So far, Risma has been an obvious case of this pattern.

Electoral Figures
Furthermore, populist figures in a corrupt political system risk being used by other political parties. It has nationally been known that certain parties, such as PAN, Democrat and Golkar were trying to take Jokowi from PDIP and make him their own candidate. However, this move was blocked by PDIP. Similarly, Risma if she steeps as Surabaya’s mayor, Gerinda, Golkar, and even Democrat are willing to propose her as a strong running-mate.  They are still in the circle of a corrupt political system. This is possible because they do not have their own political organization. As Max Lane’s argues, Jokowi and also Risma are electoral political figures (ISEAS, 2013). For these parties, Jokowi and Risma are vote magnets which can increase the party image and support sufficiently to win the election. This is a very pragmatic objective, yet it cannot guarantee that in the future the party elites will not continue to threaten the performance of these two leading populist figures.

By: Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge
Published in the Jakarta Post, March 5, 2014
Republished in the Eurasia Review, March 12, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Papua’s response to the gift of Special Autonomy plus

Many Papuans are concerned about what the impact will be of the current president’s so-called “gift” to the province, ‘special autonomy plus’ or 'Otsus plus'.

        Indonesia’s easternmost province Papua has long been the scene of political discontent. Former President Abdurahman “Gus Dur” Wahid restored the name, Papua, in place of ‘Irian Jaya’, the name chosen by former longstanding ruler, Suharto. His successor, Megawati Soekarnoputri passed what is known as the 2001 Special Autonomy Law No.21 (Otsus) as part of his plan to improve the welfare of the Papuans. Otsus is meant to transfer political, economic and cultural authority to the Papuans, the majority of whom however, regard Otsus at best as the pouring of an abundance of cash into the province.

           What will be the legacy of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) for the Papuan people? Given the fact that SBY will remain in power for only less than a year, many Papuans are concerned about what his so-called “gift” to the province, ‘special autonomy plus’ or Otsus plus.  It is his gift because this regulation was proposed following a meeting between local leaders and President SBY on April 2013 in Jakarta. This regulation would modify previous policy dealing with Papuan issues in the political and security spheres.

          During his 10 years in office, SBY has been undertaking a number of policies to solve Papuan problems ranging from poverty, education, health, and corruption to security. In 2011, in order to calm the growing distrust among Papuans toward the central government, SBY launched The Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4PB). UP4PB’s main duty is to build a basis for sustainable development, in line with the aspirations of local communities, leading toward social integration. Another high profile programme is The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), initially aimed at providing sufficient food and energy for Indonesians. These two programmes have been amplified by a vast amount of money per year.

          Such programes and extensive funding have so far been ineffective when it comes to tackling Papuans’ basic problems, in particular, the aspiration for independence from Indonesia. Otsus plus was widely rejected by the Papuans themselves as one way to silence their aspirations for Merdeka (freedom), as can be seen from a rising number of social and student protests.

          Internationally, the Free West Papua Campaign conducted by leading figures, such as Benny Wenda and Timothy Mote, have succeeded in raising concern about what is happening in Papua. On the local side, the Papuans regularly launch protests against the central government, but have been continuously muffled by the government’s security apparatus. This activity has been exacerbated by the central government’s tight censorship of international media over Papuan issues.

         One crucial demand by Papuans is to set up a dialogue between Papuans and the central government. There are many contesting factions in Papua, but they share one ambition: the need for a constructive dialogue. Central government, however, will not accept the referendum which would be the logical end result of such a dialogue. The central government knows full well that its every single policy initiative in Papua has to be assessed according to the effect it has on separatist feeling. So, late in his tenure, SBY is trying to give Papuans more authority to manage their daily activities.

          However, the majority of Papuans suspect that this is yet another trick to suppress the idea of independence. They have witnessed the fact that so far, implementation of special autonomy amounts to no more than the handing over of vast amounts of money that ironically end up in the hands of corrupt local political leaders, bureaucrats, and their cronies. In addition, Papuans see in Otsus plus an attempt to divide Papuans into several provinces, regions, districts and villages, without a strong political will from the central government to amplify the local capacity to govern.

           Otsus plus is also seen as a covert method of further increasing the massive militarization of Papua.  After the military operation zone (DOM) in Papua was dismantled in 1998, the hope was that the level of militarisation would slowly decrease. However, the military presence in Papua has steadily increased. 

          By imposing Otsus plus, Papua would be divided into three more provinces, giving the military the excuse to put more combat troops into each. This would in line with Indonesian army structural command. The army is able to maintain a presence and administrative structure that parallels the civil administration, from the provincial all the way down to the sub district and village levels – a presence extending deep into very isolated areas in Papua.  

          The estimated combat troops in Papua are already roughly 12,000 under the Trikora Military Command (Davies, 2007 & Imparsial, 2011). With the enforcement of Otsus plus, each new region automatically gains its own military and policy company, and each further province gains their own battalions of military and police. Even today, military soldiers are more frequently to be seen in remote areas than the presence of teachers, doctors, and nurses. Deliberately or not, this fact will steadily lead to increasing clashes between the military and civilians. In addition, as is well known, the military in Papua has been associated with human rights violations.

         The growing distrust among Papuans cannot be solved merely by extending the current policy. Otsus plus should be reconsidered. If the central government wants to build trust, there are two feasible solutions worth immediate consideration.  First, imposing a moratorium on pouring money into local governments until people’s representatives can control the use of the money. The second solution is to reduce the number of military troops in Papua. In doing so, the central government will create the basis for a mutual trust which is essential for a successful modification and implementation of the current special autonomy regulation

by: Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge
published at open democracy and republished at Scoop media

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Similar Problems with Reconciliation in Thailand and Indonesia

Both Thailand and Indonesia have been in a period of transition to more progressive form of government. On the one hand, in Thailand, the concept of democracy has repeatedly been tested. Even though several prime ministers have been elected constitutionally since the 1980s, the problem of military coups and strong grassroots protest against governments remain steady. On the other hand, Indonesia has generally been undertaking tremendous efforts to reform its political system.

Since the collapse of long-time ruler Suharto in 1998, Indonesia has transformed itself to become an example of modern democracy among other developing countries across the world. Additionally, these two countries differ in their treatment of long-ruling leaders. Interestingly, though he faced public anger at times, Suharto could head back to his beloved house in Cendana peacefully after handing over the presidency to his successor. In sharp contrast, former prime minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra has been in exile since a military coup toppled him in 2006.

However, both countries face deep grievances within society after an era of corrupt governments. In Thailand, Thaksin has been creating a sharp division within society by splitting the country into two camps, namely his proponents, a group known as the Red Shirts as his opponents, the Yellow shirts.  In Indonesia, for Suharto, there has been a clear demarcation between the victims of past gross violations of human rights and the alleged perpetrators of those violations.

Furthermore, these cases show how the democratic governments deal with the national reconciliation process.  Reconciliation depends on the capacity of elected government to establish or restore democratic relationships; it is critical to the pursuit of peacemaking domestically. In the pursuit of reconciliation, the value of justice has to be upheld together with the value of national stability. To achieve this, two important steps can be undertaken, namely proposing a genuine apology and enforcing a legal prosecution.

In the case of Thailand, Yinluck has failed to build a national reconciliation by issuing an apology as she promised in her first address as prime minister. The Yinluck administration has no political will to prosecute those responsible for the 2010 crisis that brought Thailand to deep political stand-off. A bloody crisis in 2010, in which 98 people died, was initially expected to be turning point for Yinluck Shinawatra’s government to achieve a national reconciliation. Yet, the result has been slower progress. No one from the military or the previous government has been held accountable for the violent suppression of the protests. While the Yinluck administration has provided monetary compensation to the effected families, it has given no official apology.

Meanwhile, of the 1,019 protesters that were arrested during the crackdown, 20 still remain in prison (World Politics Review, 2013). This situation has been aggravated by the government’s arrangement to “protect” the military by granting them a major role in security matters without exercising much oversight, including of its annual budget allocation. 

On the other hand, the intention of Yinluck administration’s intention to reconcile Thailand by granting amnesty, instead triggering political opposition. This is the irony of democracy in which a worthy intention of the elected leader to reconcile the country instead draws strong protests from society. The main reason for this rejection is that Thaksin, Yinluck’s brother, will be allowed to return to Bangkok. This intention instantly received strong protest from the elite and educated people who have long been seen as initiators of local protests against the Thaksin’ backed government since 2006. They view Yinluck as similar as his brother who governed amid corruption and constrained citizens’ freedom.

In the Indonesian cases, the reconciliation is also still easier said than done. Since the end of Suharto government, the Indonesian government has failed to achieve reconciliation at the national level.  There is no genuine apology from the current government for what have been seen as past shocking abuses of human rights, particularly during the Suharto period. One particular case is sided in the report completed by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas Ham) regarding the 1965 massacre carried out by the state. This report’s recommendation that the government issue an apology but it was overlooked, and there was no further investigation by the government.

In terms of pursuing legal prosecution, neither Thailand nor Indonesia ever shows strong political will to consistently enforce laws. There are a number of initiatives since the end of Suharto rule to deal with grassroots human rights violations, such as forming a truth and reconciliation commission and introducing human rights bill, but these have served particular interest groups. In this regard, the two countries have aims to “protect” particular groups, such as the military who are known to have a constant impunity. In Papua’s case for instance, no apology has been offered by the Indonesian government for the state’s exploitation and intimidation of Papuans since they became part of Indonesia.

Ironically, instead of declaring a genuine apology and enforcing legal prosecution, the current government has initiated giving national hero status to Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, a former special forced commander and also father-in-law of the current president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Wibowo is considered responsible for ordering the death of thousands of Indonesians in 1965. This fact amplifies the assumption that impunity in Indonesia has become very much embedded into the nation’s political culture.

Both countries have been practicing a similar refusal to seek a national reconciliation. If Thailand has been facing a prolonged crisis due to the absence of a genuine apology and legal prosecution, Indonesia also has the potential to have long-term deep grievances turn unexpectedly into social conflict. Eventually, these two countries cannot build a strong transition and consolidation, if reconciliation is still absent, particularly at the national level.

By: Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge
    published in the Jakarta Post, Dec. 9, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Jokowi: Between a Traditional Elite and an Oligarchy

 Discussing a national political landscape over the last two years is so much fascinating in terms of looking at the much-discussed political competition. Heading to the 2014 election, everyone in Indonesia is keeping their eyes on Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s performance and his opportunity to run for president.
Jokowi, as various opinion polls have shown, holds the keys to victory. It would be foolish for the party to leave him behind in the 2014 race.  Apparently, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) sees Jokowi as the only tactic to uphold votes in both legislative and executive elections.

However, as a political student and for some Indonesians, the aforementioned scenario raises concerns regarding the internal dynamic between populism derived from Jokowi’s direct popular appeal and the prevailing patronage system within PDIP. It is largely obvious that during the Party’s coordination meeting couple months ago, there were two camps: those who supported Megawati to run for the third times as the PDIP’s presidential candidate and those local PDIP cadres who favor the former Solo mayor as the prominent candidate.

Given the aforementioned description, there are two possible questions. First, what is the political consequence if the PDIP is willing to back Jokowi’s bid to run for office and second, how can Jokowi exert and maintain his popularity amid the domination of small wealthy people or oligarchs on the national political landscape.

PDIP is a traditional party that has been maintaining its appeal among its followers by looking back to Soekarno and his nationalist vision. However, it is virtually assured that this party is only controlled by Soekarno descendants. Since it was established in 1999, PDIP has been in the hands of Megawati and her family members. Every single policy has been overseen by Megawati and she has been viewed as the symbol of unity within the party. Jokowi knows exactly what his party requires to back presidential candidates and he knows he has to maintain close relations with Megawati. This fact is pivotal in analyzing the way the party or to lesser extent its charwoman shapes what is Indonesia’s future under Jokowi if he latter becomes president next year.

That scenario will likely happen given certain basic facts. It is collectively known recently, Megawati is accompanying Jokowi on visits to see what is happening at the grassroots level.  This fact is unique given her profile as an elite; Megawati has never done such activities except during political campaigns. Megawati is trying to emulate what Jokowi has been doing so far. Jokowi also spends time frequently to visit Megawati’s house to discuss many topics ranging from international to local issues (Tempo: 2013).  Jokowi even reported the progress of certain projects such as, Pluit Dam and relocation of Tanah Abang textile market, to the former Indonesian president.

Looking ahead, it is hard to judge what sort of president Jokowi would make. However, these aforementioned facts lead to prospect of Jokowi if he is elected constitutionally as the Indonesian president. Megawati will tend to influence Jokowi’s policy, particularly in crucial polices, such as appointing cabinet ministers and high state institutional officers. This is more likely to occur given the close relationship between those two prominent figures. Jokowi himself so far has exhibited how Megawati is highly important in his tenure as Jakarta’s governor as well as the PDIP’s cadre.

Beside the close relationship between Jokowi and his chairwoman, another crucial issue that should be highlighted is that Jokowi’s popularity and its effect amid the existence of oligarchy.

As we know, the key power resource that brings Jokowi to the national level is his popularity. He does not have the same tremendous material power as his counterparts, such as Prabowo Subianto, Aburizal Bakrie, Surya Paloh and Jusuf Kalla. On the one hand, the popularity is crucial for Jokowi to mobilize support from the middle and lower class of society as was proved in the Jakarta election in 2012. Jokowi emerged when the current government fails to address the needs of a large constituency. It created conditions ripe for populism. In other words, it was a movement, a reaction to a deficient political system. The people felt neglected in some way by their government; the populist leader appealed to this, suggesting he could better represent their political desires.

On the other hand, this popularity is apparently not quite strong enough to tame the oligarchic which have continued to influence and even “hijack” Indonesia’s democracy after the downfall of Soeharto (Hadiz & Robinson; Winters: 2012). Jokowi is popular due mainly to heavy media coverage since he was the Solo mayor. He will be vulnerable amid the domination of oligarchs in Indonesia, needing to acknowledge the financial backing and other support would be given to him during his presidential campaign.

If the PDIP allows Jokowi to run for the 2014 election, a financial support is the crucial factor to think about. The 2012 gubernatorial election was the best example how the Jokowi’s candidacy received a financial backing from the oligarchs.  In its report, weekly based magazine Tempo published a revealing article focusing on the oligarchs backing Jokowi’s candidacy (Who Owns Jokowi?” Tempo, July24 2012). Though, Jokowi’s campaign team refused that report, it is widely known that Indonesia’s democracy is highly cost democracy. Oligarchs will provide a vast amount of money to Jokowi and in turn, he has to give reward to those small wealthy people who support his political campaign.  This leads to concern, the extent to which Jokowi will distance himself from the existence of oligarchy.
Jokowi has to cut the circle of elites and oligarchs even though it will take long time. Democracy does not merely require electability and popularity but the competency to become an independent figure amid the prevailing elitists and oligarchy domination within the democratic system

By: Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge
        published in the Jakarta Post, November 18, 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Military Ruling Ambition in Egypt and Indonesia

Though the current spotlight is pointing to Syria’s civil war, the crisis in Egypt is still far away from coming to an end. The crisis currently hitting Egypt can be discussed in several points, such as fragmentation among civil and political societies, mainly between the ousted president Morsi’s supporters against anti-Morsi groups, the inadequacy of the interim government to manage the country, growing distrust among Egyptians toward state institutions, and military activity. In terms of government transition, what is happening in Egypt appears to be a comparative case with what was happening after the collapse of Suharto’s regime in Indonesia in 1998. 
Looking at these two cases, one variable that should be concerned with is military ruling ambition, mainly during transition and democratic consolidation periods. The desire - whether stemming from the armed forces as an institution or from individual officers, to play the dominant roles or to influence policies, and even to overthrow the incumbent government - drives the military to engage in social, economic, and prominently political daily life. There are two elements that need to be considered regarding the military ruling ambition both in Egypt and in Indonesia, the way to channel and to reduce the military political ambition during consolidation period.
Personal politicization done by former Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser to entangle the military as a crucial foundation in building modern Egypt gave a significant effect to the military to develop its political ambition that finally became largely obvious when they overthrew the longtime ruler Husni Mubarak in 2011. In the early months after the revolution, the military formed as its political channel, a 21st Century junta: the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
SCAF declared the complementary constitution that returned itself all legislative powers and gave itself a veto over a wide range of political and security issues. That constitution gave strong power to the military to control the country. It caused instability in the country after the massive protests by Egyptians. The new constitution was a shelter of the military against the desire of the people to end the legacy of the old regime, particularly the military. Given that privilege, the military reasserted its domination in political affairs. It was also reinforced by a growing fragmentation among civilian actors.
In every nascent democracy, a sense of loyalty or political attachment to the country’s newly-formed democratic process is vital. In the case of Egypt, during the consolidation period, the military clearly overlooked a constitutional process or via the ballot box to overthrow the unpopular elected president, yet by force. This was the second time for the military to force the incumbent president to step down. It was different from the first phase of Egypt’s revolution in which the military took SCAF as its political body. Shortly after Morsi’s collapse, the military led by Egypt’s ruling General, Abdel Fatah Al-sisi, whom himself was appointed minister of defense by Morsi-named the chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court Adly Mansour as interim president, thus putting a civilian face on a military coup. In this regard, the military continues to play political role not through a specific body, yet expressing its grip directly throughout the country by imposing a tight security approach to manage the country. In sum, the military is still being a dominant player and it seems unlikely to be deprived.
Some political analysts are comparing the Egypt’s path with Indonesia’s in 1998 in terms of undertaking political transition. In his article Lessons for Cairo from Jakarta, Manilaand Elsewhere published at the New York Times, Michael Vatikiotis argues that the security forces remain as a prominent actor not only under authoritarian regime but more decisive during a transitional period in both countries. Furthermore, Vatikiotis says the Egypt’s military should take a similar path to its counterpart, the Indonesian military in underpinning the democratic transition and reforming its institution (TheNew York Times, 07/08/13). 
However, the Jakarta Post commentary highlights the possibility of Indonesia’s turning back to disorder and chaotic situations in 1998 as it has happened in Egypt currently, given its political chaos, systemic corruption at all bureaucratic levels, attacks upon religious minorities, and so forth (The Jakarta Post 07/30/13). These problems are deemed as driving forces for the military to take over the government. It is quite different from Egypt, the Indonesian military draws its ambition from birth right principle in which the military sees itself as an essential component to attain the independence.
Moreover, the military received its prominent status during the New Order under Soeharto. The military political ambition had been channeled through Golkar as its formal political vehicle. However, after the collapse of Soeharto, the military through its former officers either formed or developed many political parties as the way to express their political views and interests. When General (retired) Edy Sudrajat launched the Indonesian Justice & Unity Party (PKPP) in 2004 outside Golkar, it marked the shift of the military ruling ambition.
The political ambition of the military, though has been restricted constitutionally since 2002, is still evident as indicated by the fact that a number of former military officers are running for legislative and executive positions, ranging from regency to national elections. Heading to the 2014 election, some former generals have taken their bids for the presidency supported by their own political vehicles, such as former Indonesian Military Commander General Wiranto with Hanura, Gerindra-backed candidate Lieutenant General (retired) Prabowo Subianto, Former General Endiarto Sutarto with his bid for Democratic presidential convention, and former General Sutiyoso as a Chairman of the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI). Interestingly, the younger brother of Ani Yudhoyono, the Indonesia’s current First Lady, General (retired) Pramono Edhie Wibowo who repeatedly rejected a proposal for presidency during his tenure as Army Chief of Staff, eventually joined democratic partyboard of committee. Though he graduated from class of 1984 of the Indonesian Military Academy, which was presumed as a reformation class in which the military’s dual functions had been gradually reduced in the military curriculum and proposed more elements on professionalism values, Pramono still finds it hard to deprive his natural military ambition in his blood. 
Across the board, the military ruling ambition in these two cases should be reduced. In this regard, the institution, individual, or external constraints are available to be applied in both countries. Indonesia took an institutional constrain launched in 2004 by internal military reform as the way to curb political ambition of certain groups or individual officers. In addition, the military cohesion which arose some reform generals, such as Susilo Bambang Yudoyhono, Agus Widjojo and Agus Wirahadikusumah helped to change the military mindset to underpin the democratic system. Generally, this effort has significant impacts to promote professionalism values to reduce the military political ambition. However, to some extent, the military still could not block its former officers’ political intention as seen by those retired generals as aforementioned.
Conversely, the institutional and individual constraints apparently do not apply to solve the military regime in Egypt. The Egypt’s military remains intact so far. Accordingly, there is no faction or reform group within the military to pose a “threat” to de facto ruling generals who now control the government. Furthermore, the external factor is previously considered as the only way to push the military back to its barrack. In this regard, the Obama administration is a key to end the prolonged crisis in Egypt. Nevertheless, Obama has been playing with semantics by refusing to call Morsi’s ouster a ‘coup’. Under provision of the Foreign Assistance Act, the US is required to cut aid to any country that undergoes a military-backed coup d’etat. In fact, the United States is still being hesitant to “punish” Egypt, though it has been obvious that more than 100 people have been killed under the martial law imposed by the government since July 2013.

The society pressures both from internal and from external, which in turn lead to a national arrangement is the last resort to end the conflict, to re-build a democratic government and more notably to reduce the military ruling ambition. It will definitely take time, but it will give the opportunity for those parties, particularly the military to give back the authority to the democratically elected civilian government.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The "Floating Elites" in Democratic Party

Prior to the Democratic Party's national convention in September, many prominent figures are emerging on the public scene, hoping to be elected as the presidential candidate from this "mercy" party. Some of them are external figures, such as Mahmud M.D, Gita Wiryawan, Dahlan Iskan, Irman Gusman Pramono Edhie Wibowo, and just recently Jusuf Kalla, and also an internal figure, namely Marzuki Alie, are waiting for the invitation to run as the Democratic Party's candidate in the upcoming national election. It is interesting to look at the opportunity of these floating elites to run as a presidential candidate from the ruling party and its effects on the national political constellation. 
In political science the term “floating elite” is used to describe the existence of certain elites who do not have a party as their basis for attaining power in office. Nevertheless, by maintaining their positions based on power resources, such as financial, popularity, and mobilization capability, these elites display the ability to uphold their images as figures who are worthy to compete in the elections (Michels, 1911). In the same vein, the internal party system allows these elites to mobilize supports from the grassroots in order to achieve the majority in the elections. This process occurs particularly when the party has a great need for these kinds of figures amid the decline of its images, as is currently happening with the Democratic Party.
Shortly after many eminent Democrats’ figures, such as Nazarudin, Angelina Sondakh, Andi Malarangeng, and even the former party chief Anas Urbaningrum, were allegedly involved in the  corruption scandals, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), chief of the party's supreme assembly, took the lead to clean up the pervasive corruption within the party. As a typical newly established party, there is no strong plan for managing the crisis period. The Democratic Party had to choose its new chief and selected the incumbent president of the country, SBY. It also appointed an acting chief, the incumbent Minister of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises, Syarif Hassan, to manage the party’s daily political activities. This fact illustrates that there is no strong organizational pattern within the party that allows its own cadres besides SBY and his inner circle to lead the party.
As a result, the corruption within the party and the reliance on a single political leader are two main reasons why the party has declined in drawing support from the public. This view is supported by the latest survey conducted by Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS) that shows the Democratic Party’s electability currently at the lowest margin of public support at 7.1 percent, a dramatic loss from their 21 percent support in 2009 when the public was willing to vote for the Democratic Party. Based on these facts, one of the rescue plans that has been devised involves establishing an open primary convention from which someone from either the  internal cadres or from external figures will go on to compete as the  Democrats presidential candidate in the 2014 election.
The outstanding figures trying to appeal to the Democrats cadres and constituencies in order to acquire a "ticket" for the presidential race highlight an important issue. Mahmud MD, the former Constitutional Court Chief Justice is presumed to be the most prominent figure who can help the ruling party lift its reputation in the society. With his unblemished personal background and his record of integrity as a former minister and a former constitutional judge, Mahmud is seen as the most acceptable figure to raise the Democratic standing. With the split in his former party, Nation Awakening Party (PKB), Mahmud’s only realistic opportunity to enter the race is through the Democrats primary convention. However, winning the primary is a large challenge not only for him but also for other external figures because of the absence of cadres support for those not rooted in the party.
Moreover, among the internal candidates, Marzuki Alie is the most eminent figure for the Democrats, based on this career in the party. He is one of the loyal cadres. However, his reputation as an elite and his elite positions in the party since 2004, leaves him with no basic grassroots constituency. This challenge for him is fortified by the split among the cadres into two camps, those who are loyalists of former chief Anas Urbaningrum and those who affiliate with the current chief SBY. In sum, the current situations--corruption cases, a personalistic party, and a split among the cadres--within the Democratic Party are real challenges for elevating its position in the upcoming election.
Furthermore, amidst the patrimonial based system among the parties in Indonesia, the revival of external figures outside the party can be presumed as another and prospective channel for supporting a more robust political landscape in Indonesia's consolidation period. After the ouster of President Soeharto in 1998, the Indonesian political  landscape has been controlled by a dominant closed-party system in which only those who have particular sources of power can lead, maintain, and, more importantly, decide who can run in legislative and presidential elections. From 1999 until 2009, certain party members have maintained elite roles or have even created new political parties to channel their intentions to acquire government office. Only one party, namely Golkar, even held the conventions in 2004 and 2009, and the candidates still stemmed from internal elites. 
The emergence of the external figures reveals the opportunity for outsiders to compete in the internal party conventions leading to the presidential election.  Their existence turns around the Indonesia's old fashioned elite configuration. Even though these elites face a lack of internal supports, particularly from the cadres, they nonetheless exemplify another option for fortifying the quality of democracy in Indonesia, allowing external elites to express their various visions and draw supports from the grassroots.
Eventually, we will see a shift in the Democratic Party's constituencies. This shift will be quite interesting as well as important, remembering the majority of ballots that the party received in the 2009 election. Amidst this uncertain political condition, the ballots from certain constituencies from particular parties will affect legislative and presidential elections next year.

first published in