Tue, 09 Nov 1999

Contradictory hypothesis

It is interesting to note the self contradictory hypothesis purported by Mr. Gottfried Roelcke (The Jakarta Post, Nov. 5, 1999, Has the MPR failed the people?). There he theorized that had the people been given the direct choice between Megawati Soekarnoputri and Abdurrahman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur, the majority would have voted for Gus Dur. I think this is a misleading assumption because if a direct presidential election had happened, the final candidates wouldn't have been Gus Dur and Megawati, but Megawati and possibly B.J. Habibie. Here is my reasoning.

The direct election of a president would have to be made in at least two layers, considering there were 48 parties with over 40 presidential candidates. But this method would cost a lot of money, so the election committee had to screen the candidates through the people's representatives as on June 7, 1999. According to this election result, we know that the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) won almost half of the votes (please, note 1/3 is the final result of said calculation, but PDI Perjuangan's actual vote gain was about 50 percent), Golkar around 18 percent, PPP and PKB around 10 percent, PAN 7 percent, PBB 2 percent, and others less than 2 percent. Based on this, the final two eligible candidates were Megawati and Habibie. Considering major resistance among the vast majority of the people outside Sulawesi or Eastern Indonesia toward Habibie, I would dare say that Megawati would have claimed a compelling victory.

Gus Dur's nomination is a scheme by the political elite who would do anything to stop Megawati. At grassroots level, there is little such deadly resistance against Megawati. It would be especially true if the power elite hadn't used religious issues to incite the ill-educated masses.

Mr. Roelcke's statement that the remaining 65 percent was an indication that the voters wanted a president other than Megawati was self contradictory, because if that is the standard then Gus Dur shouldn't be the president, should he? Isn't the remaining 90 percent non PKB voters a strong indication that they want a president other than Gus Dur? The question is, as Ms. Rahayu correctly pointed out, why this standard has been applied only to PDI Perjuangan? Why the ganging up? It seems to me these antiMegawati politicians are scared of their own shadows. It was Habibie they should have been scared of, considering the extraordinary mess he had created and failed to clean up during his 18 month reign.

It is easy to hypothesize but the point of an election is precisely to avoid these kind of polemics. And in this context I take my hat off to people like Goenawan Mohamad, Wimar Witoelar and Matori Abdul Djalil who despite their choice in the election which was definitely not PDI Perjuangan, they defended the essence of democracy by acknowledging the right of the election winner that has indisputably won more votes than other parties to be given the first opportunity to create a government. This is what Mr. Roelcke has failed to heed with his emotional accusation that Ms. Rahayu was a mere ardent, broken-hearted supporter of PDI Perjuangan. That isn't the point, is it? She might have not voted for PDI Perjuangan, the way I myself didn't.

I must say PDI Perjuangan's downfall is its overconfidence and its failure to form a solid coalition, especially with PAN. However, does this justify PAN and other Islamic parties, that had previously broadcast their stern opposition to the status quo, in preferring Habibie to Megawati? (This scenario would have happened had the final choice been between Habibie and Megawati considering their mild stance regarding Habibie's accountability speech which berated many people). Wouldn't it have been a contradiction to the people power that toppled Soeharto and also a return to square one?