Mon, 14 Aug 2000

Emasculation of the presidency

On Aug. 7 President Abdurrahman Wahid gave his progress report before the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). On Aug. 8 the MPR members responded negatively, in particular criticizing the President's management failures. After failing for months to heed warnings that his style of managing government affairs was not succeeding, it took the President only two days to announce what sounds like a major presidential management innovation. On Aug. 9 the President announced that to improve his performance, he would delegate responsibility for day-to-day details on domestic matters to Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri. What's wrong with this picture?

The President has announced that he will delegate management responsibility for "the day-to-day technical details of running the government" to someone who has no more of a track record for modern management expertise or orientation to technical details than he does. One must wonder what the President is thinking of. One must wonder why the same MPR members who criticized the President's lack of management expertise have so eagerly embraced this proposition.

The President's errors of judgment, tactical mistakes, and management failures have weakened his authority dangerously. Political figures feel emboldened to prey on the President's weakness to wrest the presidency from him, if not in name then in effect. Knowing that impeachment could be a fatal wound to economic recovery, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-Perjuangan) and the Functional Group (Golkar) instead engineered the President's capitulation to a constitutionally defective form of power-sharing with a Vice President whose strengths do not complement the President's but replicate them. President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid might have needed a wake up call from the MPR, but he should not have his presidential role limited this way. This is a victory for backroom politics and a setback for constitutional government.


Medan, North Sumatra