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J-K win, what’s the reality?

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After what has been a campaign of ups and downs and just about every direction known to man – Jokowi Widodo has became Indonesia’s third ever President elect. The former furniture salesman, who as mayor of Solo only started his political career in 2005, is now the President of the World’s third largest democracy. His rival, Prabowo Subianto, ex member of Indonesia’s elite special forces KOPASSUS and Soeharto son-in-law, shocked the nation when he announced he would be withdrawing from the race. Many expected rioting, looting, the chaos of days gone by – but so far all’s quiet on the western front.

Rather recycle EVERY piece of news floating around the internet today, I thought perhaps instead we might have a look a Jokowi’s potential future in politics.

First of all Jokowi is a REFORMIST. He desires a better health care system, increased expenditure on infrastructure, and tackle (or at least put a dent in) Indonesia’s immeasurable corruption. These are admirable goals, but does Jokowi have the political cache to be able to turn these dreams into reality? 

To answer this we must look into the past

Reform the SBY Experiences

When SBY assumed office in 2004 one of his first duties was to reformat the KPK (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi) – the organisation tasked with investigating and prosecuting corruption cases. Initially it was a success – many mid to low-level corruption scandals were uncovered and early prosecution rates were upwards of 90%. Yet, the organisations efficiencies (ironically) led to its downfall.

Once the KPK begun investigating high-level officials (both civil and military) the KPK was shut down and restructured. When re-opened the judiciary wing of the organisation had been severely weakened and conviction rates dropped dramatically. The KPK had become a lame duck.

The fact that SBY (with a support rate of 60 per cent) could NOT successfully implement this policy – the backbone of his campaign – is very telling. It is not that SBY lacked political will, far from it – he was a well-known reformist. Rather, once reforms begin to touch the upper echelons of Indonesian society – the elites – particularly those in the DPR, reforms were blockaded.

Reform and Widodo

The reform issue for Jokowi is much more discouraging. He will not be able to rely on mass public support for any of his initiatives. Instead he will have to rely on the DPR – a reformist’s political worst nightmare. It is not yet certain if Jokowi-Kalla will enjoy a majority of support in the DPR, at least not enough of a majority to implement Jokowi’s proposed plans. If Golkar cuts a deal with PDI-P this might give the J-K team enough support to push through a series of minor reforms, but as the SBY track record can attest to it is no easy feat. As Yudhoyono’s second term suggests ideas are one thing, the DPR is another.

Widodo’s elite status 

Although Jokowi’s humble roots made him relatable to voters “the desa is a long way from JAKARTA pusat.” The DPR, where Jokowi and Kalla will be wheeling and dealing is almost exclusively run by elites of one generation or another. Jusuf Kalla will be instrumental in helping Jokowi get accustomed to life in the top echelons of JKT politics, however it would be good to see some of the REAL Jokowi among all this pomp and ceremony.

Megawati, her Generals, Jokowi and Kalla.

It is not secret that Megawati is not everyone’s favourite politician. It was a major attack-point for team Prabowo (and now absent Hatta) to discredit Jokowi-Kalla through PDI-P’s connection to Sukarno’s daughter. However, perhaps the most controversial aspect of Megawati and her PDI-P is that she insists on reinstating two Generals whom SBY saw fit to dismiss from top military postings – Ryamizard Ryacudu and,  Hendropriyono.

Harold Crouch (noted Indonesian scholar) describes both Generals (ret) as “security first officers” whom see territorial disputes as the sole domain of the TNI. Ryacudu an outspoken member of the TNI (ret) claimed that he saw no need for political solutions to communal conflict. He is likely to clash strongly with Jusuf Kalla who was instrumental in bringing about peace to Aceh via the Helsinki MoU.

Yet as now all this remains speculation – albeit speculation based on a bit a research. Hopefully Jokowi does not suffer the same fate as SBY and assume (unfairly) the nomenclature lame duck.

 The Editors, 23/07/14