Indonesia's Democracy Is Consolidated, Taiwan's Democracy Is Calicified
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 29, 2014
Summary: After nearly two weeks of counting ballots, the presidential election
results for Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world,
have finally been announced. Joko "Jokowi" Widodo of the reformist
Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (PDI-P), emerged victorious over
Prabowo Subianto of the conservative Great Indonesia Movement Party
(Gerindra) by a 6% margin, or 8 million votes. Eight million votes in
many small countries would be a huge margin. But because Indonesia has
180 million voters, that number is relatively small. Little wonder
Prabowo refused to concede defeat, and asked the Constitutional Court to
overturn the election results.
Full Text Below:
After nearly two weeks of counting ballots, the presidential election results for Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world, have finally been announced. Joko "Jokowi" Widodo of the reformist Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (PDI-P), emerged victorious over Prabowo Subianto of the conservative Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) by a 6% margin, or 8 million votes. Eight million votes in many small countries would be a huge margin. But because Indonesia has 180 million voters, that number is relatively small. Little wonder Prabowo refused to concede defeat, and asked the Constitutional Court to overturn the election results.
Jokowi is the son of a carpenter. Prabowo is military strongman Suharto's son in law. This election has been characterized as a battle between a commoner and an aristocrat. But closer examination reveals that the leader of Jokowo's PDI-P is former military strongman Sukarno's daughter Megawati. Therefore the presidential election should instead be characterized as a battle between the successors of two strongmen. Indonesia's military strongman dictatorship came to an end 16 years ago. But politics has yet to emerge from the shadow of these strongmen.
Over the past 16 years, Indonesia has held a string of democratic elections. But past presidents Habibie, Wahid, Megawati, and Yudhoyono, were all strongmen. Habibie was Vice President during the Suharto era. Megawati was the daughter of Sukarno. And Prabowo, who lost the recent election, is Suharto's son in law. No wonder some say that Indonesia is a democratic political experiment conducted under the shadow of strongmen. The specters of strongmen haunt Indonesia's democracy.
During this 16 year experiment in democracy, ruling vs. opposition party power struggles have bedeviled the country. Government efficiency has not improved. Instead it has deteriorated. The situation has enabled the political opposition to maliciously obstruct President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's attempts to govern. In addition, under Indonesian plutocracy, politics has not become any cleaner. It has become dirtier. Wahid was impeached for corruption and forced to step down. This led to further disappointment in democracy. During the recent election many Indonesians donned Suharto T-shirts that read, "When I was in power, life was better." This nostalgia for authoritarian ruler reflects Indonesians' disappointment and confusion about democracy.
This nostalgia has revealed Indonesians' longing for strongman politics, and their disgust with the chaos of democracy. Prabowo attempted to exploit his status as Suharto's son in law to win the election. Prabowo incited economic nationalism. He attacked large companies that took advantage of foreign market openings to grab Indonesian natural resources. He accused past rulers of selling state owned enterprises to foreign governments on the cheap. He adopted the demeanor of a strongman and promised to end political corruption, restore law and order, and pursue social justice. Prabowo packaged himself well. People almost forgot that he was one of the masterminds behind the 1998 special forces kidnapping of student dissenters. During the recent Indonesian presidential election nearly 30 million young people were first time voters. Most of them have no memory of past dictatorships. They are also the main victims of market openings and a widening wealth gap. Paradoxically these first time voters have become staunch supporters of Prabowo.
By contrast, consider Jokowi. During the election campaign he mostly touted his achievements as a local government head. For example, he successfully transformed the crime-ridden city of Surukarta into a cultural and artistic Mecca. By adopting this campaign strategu he turned the election into one about "democratic progress vs. democratic retrogression." In fact, many people worried if Prabowo were elected, Indonesian democracy would regress. As a result the "job performance card" won, and Jokowi came out ahead.
For Indonesia, Jokowi coming to power makes people both happy and worried. They are happy that Jokowi may be able to duplicate his success as mayor of Surukarta City and governor of Jakarta. They hope he can change Indonesia's culture of corruption and raise living standards for the impoverished majority. They are worried that Jokowi has experience only at the local government level. Also, he belongs to the PDI-P, a minority party in the legislature. Having a minority government will handicap his administration. Also, Jokowi must deal with former President Megawati and current Vice President Jusuf Kalla, both of whom are strongmen likely to resist his reforms.
Jokowi's victory represents the culmination of 16 years of democracy in Indonesia. Indonesia has transitioned from "democratic experimentation" to "democratic consolidation." By contrast, on Taiwan, democratization has been in effect for nearly three decades. There have been two changes in ruling parties. Yet the quality of democracy has remained the same. It is still characterized by coarseness, chicanery, disinformation, and mud-slinging. The opposition DPP refuses to abide by majority rule. It resorts to minority violence to obstruct economic and public welfare legislation. It even refuses to participate in a national policy conference, As a result, the government cannot implement policy. The ruling party lacks the guts and determination to win public support and trust. As a result, the machinery of state has ground to a halt. Compared to Indonesia, Taiwan must cope with ubiquitous political confrontation. It cannot take a single step forward. What, if anything is so wonderful about this sort of democracy?
2014.07.29 03:19 am