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BerichtOnderwerp: a bit of Sunday reading from the Jak Pos...   a bit of Sunday reading from the Jak Pos... Icon_minitimezo 6 jan 2013 - 4:55

The Big Nonsense About Indonesia's Political Democracy,

January 06, 2013

In present-day Indonesia, market monopolies are strictly forbidden. Monopoly and olygopoly are considered forms of greed that are against democratic principles and must be abolished.

Under the internationally dictated banner of free-market economics, foreign products are flooding Indonesia endlessly — from coconuts to oranges, salt and rice. Go to any super- or mini-market in Jakarta, and you will see an influx of imported fruits, soft drinks, you name it — almost anything that could otherwise be obtained from inside the country.

That is now an accepted practice, to prove the theory that Indonesia upholds free-market principles as a manifestation of economic democracy.

Ironically, while economic democracy is going in that direction, political democracy is going in a totally opposite direction. In the name of economic democracy, a monopoly is not allowed. But in the name of political democracy, monopoly and olygopoly somehow remain accepted, “state-blessed” practices.

Big political parties are raping the country’s democracy by using state laws to protect and perpetuate their greed for power that does not allow for any outside tampering. This is why they insist that in the next presidential election only a party or a coalition of parties that commands 25 percent of a legislative election vote, or 20 percent of parliamentary seats, may propose a presidential candidate.

These big players were the ones that produced that presidential election law and they are now the ones insisting that the law should not be changed, so that only three parties can contest for presidency — “other parties have no right to field their candidates,” so goes their selfish claim.

In line with the big parties’ interests, the Constitutional Court in 2009 rejected a massive move by “non-parliament” political activists to conduct a judicial review of the presidential election law. Now, still under Mahfud M.D. as chairman, the country’s highest review court is not interested in reviewing the law because that would open the way for alternative presidential candidates to contest the election and make Indonesia a more mature democracy.

But when Mahfud ends his term in April this year, the entire story will change. His successor may not necessarily follow his direction. Already, a huge tsunami of people power is building impatiently in society, ready to sweep the stage.

Adnan Buyung Nasution, Rizal Ramli, Todung Mulya Lubis and other noted legal and political activists have begun firing the cannonball against the Constitutional Court. University campuses, NGOs and dozens of public figures will join the march to end the “official monopoly” of the law by the big parties.

Now let us analyze which parties actually want the monopoly and olygopoly to remain in force. The three big parties are the ruling Democratic Party, the Golkar Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

The Democrats’ highest authority, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has announced that his party does not yet have a candidate for the presidency, and that the playing field must be broadened to allow for the nation’s best candidates to come forward and sell their visions and concepts to the public — whether or not they come from political parties.

That means his bigger concern is not having a capable candidate, rather than not seeing the presidential threshold fulfilled. It also means Yudhoyono is not convinced with the statesmanship, leadership qualities and capability of the mass-media-anointed presidential candidates now on stage. This is why his party will conduct a convention this year to recruit alternative presidential candidates.

Yudhoyono wants his successor to be at least like him — or better, if possible — in terms of vision, capability and leadership qualities. His concern over not having such a leader to replace him is certainly much bigger than at what level should the presidential threshold be maintained. The threshold can be altered once Mahfud is no longer in office as of March 31.

The move by Buyung Nasution, Rizal Ramli and Mulya Lubis to press for judicial review of the presidential election law will gain a much bigger momentum after Mahfud has retired. The entire landscape may change drastically ahead of the legislative election in April 2014.

Mahfud’s popularity will drastically erode once he is no longer in office, analysts say, because the National Awakening Party (PKB), which he used to rely on, is now divided again with some favoring dangdut star Rhoma Irama as a candidate while others may rally behind either Mahfud or Muhaimin Iskandar, the current manpower and transmigration minister.

Golkar is moving ahead against all odds to make its chairman, Aburizal Bakrie, president, while sustaining the bruises from political punches against him. Tragically, many of these powerful blows came from the chairman of Golkar’s own advisory council, Akbar Tandjung.

So, lowering the threshold would substantially erode Bakrie’s diminishing chances for winning the race. This is why Golkar must fight on to sustain the monopoly of the presidential election threshold, analysts argue, though that won’t be a guarantee for bolstering Bakrie’s electability.

The PDI-P has the upper hand here because of its consistency in being an opposition party. It may harvest a great deal from the fallback of support for Golkar and the Democratic Party and may even become the next ruling party, thanks to its fine performance of its legislators so far.

In that regard, the presidential threshold is not anything that PDI-P would overly worry about. So long as its presidential candidate can attract sympathy from other parties, a coalition to secure its candidate’s ticket for the palace will occur naturally, simply because the party will become everybody’s biggest potential coalition partner.

Against this backdrop, the discourse on the presidential election threshold should be redefined and re-routed to facilitate the emergence of a true leader with long-range global vision and statesmanship qualities, whether or not he or she comes from a political party.

Any opposition against this theory only confirms the retention of monopoly and olygopoly on the stage of Indonesia’s pseudo-democracy.

Pitan Daslani is a senior political correspondent at BeritaSatu Media Holdings of which the Jakarta Globe is a subsidiary. He can be reached at

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