There is a stark choice facing electors next week: to vote or not to vote?
Such is the disenchantment with the current batch of elected legislators that it’s quite possible that in the elections for the national legislature to be held next Wednesday turnout will be lower than the 70.99% of electors who exercised their right to choose in 2009.
And if they do vote, there’s a fairly stark choice: to continue with the ‘same old-same old’ or to to pin their faith in the unknown. Because I remain an unashamed optimist, I know which party’s presidential candidate would get my vote, but then I don’t have one.
However, Our Kid does now he’s legally an adult having turned 17 – my, how time fles! I’ve emphasised to him that he has a responsibility to choose candidates who will best represent his interests and those of the community at large. After all, Indonesia can now claim to be the third largest democracy in the world, after India and the USA.
Unfortunately, if democracy is a system of government by the people for the people, Indonesia’s nascent version has proven to be, in Winston Churchill‘s words, “the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”
Suharto’s old guard élite still cling to the vestiges of their power, a topic I’ve already commented on. Akbar Tandjung is the one person in this photo who hasn’t declared himself as a candidate for the presidency. However, he’s now said that he’s prepared, if nominated, to be the vice president, and he may well have the backing of the yellow-jacketed Golkar Party who don’t want their nominee, the Abominable Bakrie to be their presidential nominee, even though they’re stuck with him.
I am concerned however about one group which, having been told not to interfere, could be trying to exert undue influence on the results of the election, not by fraud but by determining the party political platforms.
All adult citizens, age 17 or older, are eligible to vote except active members of the military and the police, convicts serving a sentence of five years or more, persons suffering from mental disorders, and persons deprived of voting rights by an irrevocable verdict of a court of justice. Married juveniles are legally adults and allowed to vote.
President Gen (ret) Suharto ensured a tame legislature by reserving a number of seats for the military/police faction. It wasn’t until the 2004 election, with the police and military now separate bodies, that all seats were elected.
It could be argued that TNI (Indonesian armed forces) have never readjusted from their pre-eminent dwifungsi role when the greatest threat to Indonesia’s integrity was deemed by Suharto to be internal rather than external. Criminal actions by active personnel involving the public are still tried in military tribunals rather than civil courts.
Although TNI commander Gen. Moeldoko has repeatedly claimed that that his institution will remain neutral in the elections, once military personnel have retired they are quite properly permitted to enter the political sphere.
Hence the Post notes that 41 “influential retired generals” are shaping up the strategies of all ten parties, and that another article suggests that a former general (or Gen. Moeldoko) may be nominated as Jokowi’s vice president (because they are “loyal” to Sukarno’s daughter former President Megawati). A footnote in the same article notes that a week ago “hundreds of retired military officers declared their support of Gerinda chief patron Prabowo Subianto, a former commando of Kopassus.
“Among those pledging support is Lt. Gen (ret.) Yunus Yosfiah – a former Kopassus captaing during Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor.”
Because Indonesia is now the world’s third largest democracy – a system of government by the people for the people – I’ve no objection to any of that, and I’ll defend their right to express their opinions, however much I dislike them.
But then, can a leopard change its spots? Is there a place in a democracy for a leader with a military mindset from the dictatorial past determining a possible undemocratic future?
Prabowo has set himself up as being on the side of farmers and fishermen low down on the nations economic totem pole by talking of a ‘people’s economy‘ .
His former boss, Gen. (ret) Wiranto, has been bankrolled by Hary Tanoesoedibjo, owner of MNC Global whose satellite TV service I subscribe to. Programmes are regularly interrupted by adverts for the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), which harbors many Soeharto loyalists and family members, will propose the pair should it succeed in passing the threshold [25% of the votes] for proposing presidential candidates.
The ads show the pair smiling with fishermen and farmers, which is hardly original because Prabowo has been doing the same for at least a couple of years.
It should also be noted that PDI-P, the party of Jokowi, has as its platform a commiment to defend wong cilik, a Javanese term for the poor and disadvantaged.
A recent survey by Charta Politika (CP) shows that, apart from Golkar, voters choose figures rather than parties.
CP director Yunarto Wijaya said, “This finding indicates a symptom of what is called ‘idol democracy’ wherein political parties tend to merely serve as fan-club organizers that build a cult of personality around certain figures to lure more voters.”
Indeed, and voters need to beware of Greeks bearing gifts.*
Who’s going to win a lucrative seat here next week?
* Do not trust anyone who offers to do something nice for you, when they’ve done something bad to others.
Friend Martin Jenkins has a ‘satirical guide’ to the political party leaders and presidential candidates here.