16 Mei, 2014

With Jokowi and Prabowo Leading the Pack, What Should We Expect Beyond 2014?

Indonesian politics has always been a story of ups and downs.

Sukarno’s 20-year rule was considered successful politically but failed to lift people’s welfare. Suharto then came to power to replace Sukarno in 1966. After his 32-year stint, characterized by authoritarianism, political reform finally took place in 1998. The transition was far from smooth. Systemic corruption, red tape and weak legal enforcement, for example, remain to this day.

Meanwhile, public trust in political parties has fallen after 1999. Political parties are seen as having failed to build up a strong democratic system and to fight for the interests of the people. At the same time, the true political power shifted from bureaucrats and the military to the rich, especially the oligarchs who exert political control with an eye to their economic interests. Political dominance now goes hand in hand with economic dominance.

Unfortunately, as Jeffrey Winters of Northwestern University, an authority on oligarchy in Indonesia, told me in an e-mail, no civil movements or parties can defeat the oligarchs. “Oligarchic interests are not unified or aligned in Indonesia’s elections since 1998 because there are no parties or movements that threaten core oligarchic interests,” Winters said.

However, 2014 could be a critical turning point. Although this upcoming presidential election will remain a competition between money and participation, as Winters says, at least we can see some light at the end of the tunnel. The candidates talk about a “mental revolution” (Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s idea), a “strong state” (Prabowo Subianto’s concern) or a “Great Indonesia” (the vision of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle or PDI-P), but of course it is not only about the campaign slogans. We also look at the candidates as persons, besides their political concepts. Hope, optimism and the light of change start at a candidate’s character. But who are the candidates and what is going to happen after the election? With all due respect to other possible candidates, my argument here is focused on Jokowi and Prabowo, the two frontrunners.

If Jokowi wins

Jokowi is the most popular candidate for president. The Jakarta governor is a moderate nationalist. Jokonomics is a term used to explain his populist economic concept that focuses on health, education and other pro-poor policies. Market balance is a basic condition to fulfill such a populist agenda. This means that he will have to pay attention to both the interests of the market and the interests of the people.

Jokowi’s domestic strategy will be system-based reform and people-oriented policies with concern for civil liberties and political rights. International relations and diplomacy will be based on the spirit of humanism.

Surprisingly, the PDI-P’s presidential candidate has said from the start of the campaigning that horse-trading for ministerial posts would not happen. This could be his strength and weakness simultaneously. It will be a strength as he tries to form a professional cabinet. But it will be a weakness if political resistance from the opposition in the House of Representatives limits the effectiveness of his government.

If Prabowo wins

This former army general is the second-most popular candidate for president. He embraces the ideology of radical nationalism. Radical in this sense means “deep and strong” (in Latin, radix means root). Grass-roots economic development forms the heart of this growth strategy.

A major issue in his campaign, besides agricultural reforms and the empowerment of rural communities, is the idea of nationalization of foreign companies. Nationalizing foreign firms is obviously a sensitive issue but Prabowo has dared to put it on the table. Some consider this as an expression of strong nationalism, which will be positive in the Indonesian domestic context, but could come back to haunt him internationally.

Prabowo’s dream of building a strong state is at the core of his domestic agenda. Some human rights activists are concerned about this dream and fear the reawakening of militarism. Regardless, a strong state is essential in improving the quality of our democracy and the quality of life of the Indonesian people.

But one question that remains to be answered by Prabowo, when it comes to his manifesto, is what comes first: nationalism or economic development? This would clarify whether his idea of a strong state is aimed at military goals, political goals or economic goals.

Prabowo also has a big dream of truly reforming the country, just like Jokowi. But what is the key difference between these two possible presidents? If we would label them, Prabowo would be an institutionalist who believes changes should start at the system — hence the strong state — while Jokowi is a behavioralist who looks at human beings as the starting point of change. This is why he is talking about a “mental revolution.”

Boni Hargens is a political analyst from the University of Indonesia.


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