The electoral campaign for the presidency over the past few weeks has made it starkly clear that the choice to be made in a week’s time is between two diametrically opposite choices.
The rakyat (citizenry) either seek or fear a return to the dark times of Suharto’s Orde Baru, one which was initiated with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of intellectuals, organised workers, artists and anyone considered to be ‘communist’ – as well as neighbours who one had a grouse with.
Since then there has been sixteen years of slow and far from finished progress towards electoral enfranchisement, yet the notion that the current system suggesting that every citizen can have a stake in society has been embraced optimistically.
In 1999, President Habibie, Suharto’s successor, initiated a rapid process of decentralisation. However,as this report (pdf) from the International Crisis Group sets out in some depth, with direct elections this also decentralised corruption, from the provincial level down to local regencies. Prabowo suggests that some 30% of the elected bupatis (regents) are facing corruption charges. (That leaves 70% who are presumably doing a good job.)
Although banned, vote buying has become commonplace. Some candidates in the April parliamentary elections bankrupted themselves. Others, such as the Banten Dynasty (pdf) without natural resources to exploit, bought their way to power by bribing judges in order to overturn announced results. Thus, with the support of political party cronies (Golkar in the case of Banten) and the local business community, no serious opposition can make headway and the electorate is effectively disenfranchised.
Presidential candidate Prabowo is advocating a return to a centralised system of government, with the removal of direct elections. That will do nothing to change the mindset of Indonesians as advocated by Jokowi.
It’s only been 16 years since the process of reformasi began. Most parents and teachers were ‘brain washed’ to conform, to accept the diktats of Suharto’s Orde Baru. So the current education system does not yet encourage creative thinking, the understanding that there are consequences. (I hope that in the event of a Jokowi-Kalla win that Jusuf Kalla is kept well away from the education portfolio. He has shown little respect for teachers in the past.)
However, some 25% of the electorate is a generation which has grown up with access to social media and new ideas from all over the globe which can be placed in the context of Indonesian ‘culture’ as enforced by those parents and teachers. I would hope that the young, like the vast majority of the population is encouraged by the news this week of hitherto unprecedented sentence of life imprisonment for former Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar who had accepted vast sums to ensure that the Banten Dynasty, and other corrupt candidates for elected positions, ‘won’.
What we’ve witnessed is a victory over the country’s entrenched élite epitomised by the dilatory and insouciant President SBY. Although he often talked about ‘letting the law take its course’, he could have and should have lead from the top. Corruption, religious fundamentalism and general flouting of legal decisions from the Supreme Court have been hallmarks of his second term of office.
So, yes, I agree with Prabowo: there is certainly a need for strong leadership from whoever wins the election in a week’s time.
However, this need not, should not, be at the expense of the recently enfranchised electorate. Give the rakyat the opportunity to mature emotionally, intellectually and politically by punishing those who promise much yet on assuming office abuse the trust and aspirations of those who elected them.