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Early Challenges Faced by Joko Widodo in His Second Term

Early Challenges Faced by Joko Widodo in His Second Term

Summer in Indonesia has never been catastrophic. In fact, we do not even call it summer, just the dry season as opposed to the wet. This apparent natural phenomenon of balancing happens also in Indonesian politics.

After a very divisive Presidential election, almost everyone with clear minds were pessimistic about the future of Indonesia, due to the populist and religion-centered campaigns; however, the political temperature subsided quickly simply by the President- elect Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) reaching out to his only rival, the retired 3-star General Prabowo Subianto. Megawati, the Chairperson of PDIP, being the party that won the most seats in the parliamentary election compared to others, and biggest political support to Jokowi, flavors the national politics even more by giving a strong signal to the other political parties in Jokowi’s coalition, that Prabowo has always been a good close friend, and Gerindra, Prabowo’s party, may still be considered to be a partner in many future agenda, which only Megawati at the moment may know the details of.

The other members of the coalition seem content to wait until after the cabinet is formed in next October, and until then hopefully nothing will hamper the current political condition in the near future. The business sectors, after all, have been waiting for too long for the political condition to become conducive enough for investment and business activities to restart its engines.

It’s noteworthy that there are three recent and important developments that need to be closely observed. The first one is the public discourse on the proposal from certain groups to amend the Indonesian Constitution again by reintroducing the concept of the Broad Guidelines of State Policies (Garis Besar Haluan Negara or GHBN), which during the Suharto Administration i.e. the New Order era, were decided by the People’s Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat or MPR) under the strong direction of the Suharto’s authoritarian ruling. The now-reformed MPR consists of elected members of the People’s Representatives Council (DPR) and Regional Representatives Council (DPD). This is slightly different than the structure set up during the New Order regime, when the members consists of elected members of DPR and added with representatives of certain functional groups and regional representatives appointed personally by Suharto himself.

The GBHN, if it is to be accepted and reintroduced in our system, will require an amendment to the Indonesian Constitution, which could be decided by a simple majority of the MPR members. Looking into the composition of its existing members (from the results of the 2014 General Election), it seems that most if not all fractions in the MPR will likely propose to the newly elected members of MPR to amend the Constitution and reintroduce GBHN, realizing that such amendment will not happen during the remaining period of their tenure. It’s anticipated that the whole process will take at least one year.

This discourse is controversial. Although it only directly involves the political elites, the matter becomes too important to ignore. Pro-democracy groups have already been expressing their refusal to this proposal, and even Jokowi himself, being the number one leader elected directly by the voters in a democratic election, already expressed his objections to the idea of reintroducing GBHN.

The people who are promoting the reintroduction of GBHN including, strangely, PDIP members, argue that:

  1. there must be a guideline for the executive to sustainably and consistently implement comprehensive guidelines set out by MPR in GBHN every five years,
  2. recent experiences show that the Government frequently changes its programs, leading to ineffective and inefficient programs,
  3. the Government changes every 5 years, and if a newly elected President sets up a program which then becomes a law (which is required), the next President shall be bound by his or her predecessor, at least for a certain period before he or she could sets up own program and make it as a new law.

Critics of the reintroduction of GBHN argue that the move aims to change the structure and distribution of power within the state institutions by changing the existing presidential system to become a quasi-parliamentary system, a stronger control by the parliament through MPR, and that the move is also motivated by the desire for the ability to amend such other parts of the Constitution, i.e., (a) returning greater power of MPR so that it will be repositioned above the other state institutions including the President, DPR and the Judiciary (as vested in the Supreme Court); (b) by empowering MPR to decide the GBHN, the President will have no further power and flexibility to plan his own programs (the existing system allows the President to issue a law setting out his own programs), so that the President’s program will be guided to what has been set out by MPR in GBHN; this has a consequence that the President is accountable to MPR, and if for some reason President is deemed to have failed or breached GBHN, it will be easier for MPR to impeach President; (c) change the existing election systems so that President and Vice President will no longer be elected directly by the people, but merely by 500 or so members of MPR. The existing system also positions MPR, DPR, President, and Supreme Court at the same level, with no institution is above the others. If this happens, Jokowi’s second term may be adversely affected. He will then be controlled by MPR, a condition that he could not afford in order to continue his programs from his first administration term.

The second development is more on how Jokowi is going to elect his ministers. He promises that 55% of his ministers will be coming from professionals and 45% from members of political parties, most probably his supporters in the last election. Megawati bluntly asked Jokowi for more ministers from PDIP. Other political parties that support Jokowi seem to be demanding the same thing, except PSI, a new small media-darling political party consisting of young people that has no representation in the DPR as a result of the recent parliamentary election, but won some seats in local parliaments. In order to end the speculation, Jokowi said in public recently that he has already finalized all the names, and warned that nobody could intervene into his decision.

It’s important that certain posts have to be in the hand of independent professionals. The posts in the following fields: Finance, Trade, Industry, Investment, Foreign Affairs, State Owned Enterprises, Defense, Energy, Public Works, Agriculture, Education, Law and Human Rights, Attorney General, Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Environment and Forestry, Transportation, Manpower, Health, National Planning, Land Use and Spatial Planning, and Bureaucracy Reform should be held firmly in the hands of professionals. Without which it will be difficult for Jokowi to continue his three main programs, infrastructure development, human capital development, and poverty alleviation.

The third development, which is worrying, is an old and latent problem on how, not only Indonesian Government, but also all components of this nation, deal with issues in Papua. It was unfortunate that two incidents, one in Surabaya, and another in Malang, both heavily populated cities in East Java, ignited a wave of protests and demonstrations, some looked violent with victims on both sides, the protesters, policemen, and military personnel. The incidents sparked in Papua and some other cities in Indonesia. A group of militia raided Papuan Students’ Dormitories, claiming that the Indonesian national flag was being disrespected. The sensitivity arose as this happened during the euphoria of Indonesia’s 72nd Independence celebration.

Analysts believe that what happened was not merely an ethnic or flag- incident sensitivity, but it is basically deeper, rooted in old unsettled issues of human rights, economic development, and unanswered calls for equal and better treatment of the Papuan people as inhabitants of a region rich in natural resources but remains underdeveloped, and neglected in many areas. Jokowi has showed from the first days of his administration, his genuine attention to Papua by frequently visiting Papua, more than any other Indonesian leaders, and has been developing infrastructure while trying to win the hearts of the Papuan people. This strategy appeared to work as he won 90% of votes there.

However, the underlying problems remain. Some people in Papua claim that infrastructure and economic developments have been done and are important, but human rights, respect to their culture, ethnic and tradition, also equal treatment, democratic process, and more attention to their voice remain equally important and as of yet unsatisfactorily addressed issues.

The Chief of Indonesian Military and Police are now temporarily residing in Papua trying to resolve the situation, claiming to be using social and cultural approach, and not from a security perspective. We hope this approach works, and not only succeeds in settling the discontent ignited by the Surabaya dan Malang incidents, but more deeply into the root of the problems. Such a result would require not only the right strategy of the Government, but also all components of this nation.

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