Thu, 25 Dec 2003

'Ideological map' in Indonesian politics (1)

J. Soedjati Djiwandono Political analyst Jakarta

The ideological alignment of Indonesian politics since independence has been one of "nationalism," in support of the Pancasila ideology, versus Islam, striving for the establishment of an Islamic state on the basis of Islamic syaria. Interestingly, it can reasonably be assumed that most of the members of the "nationalist" parties are also Muslims.

That antagonism began has characterized Indonesian politics since the famous after "seven words" referring to the Islamic syaria, immediately following the phrase "belief in one Almighty God" -- the first principle of the Pancasila ideology mentioned in the "Jakarta Charter", the original draft of the constitution -- were deleted before it was to be promulgated as the Provisional Constitution of independent Indonesia (the 1945 Constitution), on the day after the proclamation of independence on 17 August 1945.

While it was to the chagrin of the Muslims to the present day, the reason for the deletion was concern over a threat to national unity after the Christian members of the Preparatory Committee for Indonesian Independence established by the Japanese occupying military authorities had reportedly threatened to opt out if those words were retained.

A clear expression of such an ideological division between Nationalism and Islam was manifested in the result of a voting in the Contitutional Assembly, established through the election of 1955, to determine a permanent constitution. The final vote was on whether the provisional 1945 Constitution or the Jakarta Charter, its original draft, was to be the Republic's permanent Constitution, which would have made the Indonesian republic an Islamic state. The result was a large majority in favor of the former choice, although the required 2/3-majority vote was not obtained. In the end the Constitutional Assembly was dissolved by a Presidential decree of July 9, 1959 for its failure.

Brief interlude

The ideological dichotomy, however, was briefly interrupted during the less than a decade of President Sukarno's rule of "Guided Democracy". Despite the so-called "Madiun Affair" of 1948, a rebellion by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), the party was never banned. Indeed, under the new leadership of D.N. Aidit, the party regained its membership and sympathizers, and in the 1955 election came out as one of the "big four", along with the PNI, the Masyumi, and the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

As a result, the common perception of "ideological map" of nationalism versus Islam did not really constitute an unbroken pattern. The PKI was becoming a political force of such influence that during Sukarno's "Guided Democracy," it eventually led him to conceive his idea of "NASAKOM", a coalition among the three main ideologies -- nationalism, religion, and communism in Indonesian politics.

Islamic revival?

Because of its alleged involvement in the "Gestapu Affair" (Sept. 30 movement) of 1965, understood as another coup attempt masterminded by the PKI, the NASAKOM was discredited, and the PKI banned. Hence the birth of the Army-dominated "New Order" regime led by General, later President Soeharto.

Indeed, there were expectations on the part of the Muslims, that with the banning of the PKI, it was time for the Islamic parties (except the Masyumi, which had earlier been banned by Sukarno for its alleged involvement in a series of Islamic rebellions), to play a more important political role. It was assumed that many among those apposed to the Jakarta Charter in the Constituent Assembly were members of the PKI, which now did not count anymore. So the Islamic parties would renew their struggle for the imposition of the Syaria. Moreover, many Muslims felt that the Muslims had been the main victims of the communists and that the Muslims played a significant role in fighting the communists.

Indeed, with due respect for the Muslims victimized by the PKI, particularly those in the country-side, the communists killed many of them, presumably not because they were Muslims as such, but in the communist ideological terms, they belonged to the class of land-owners, the "rich peasants" or "kulaks" in communist Russia.

Failing in this, many of Muslims felt "marginalized under the Soeharto regime. Only later, when at some point Soeharto was beginning to be disappointed with at least some part of the military, did he provide the Muslims with a wider opportunity to play a bigger role, particularly following the emergence of Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI) especially with B.J. Habibie coming into office as Minister of Research and Technology, and later as Vice President. It was then that there was some degree of "Islamic revival".

Nevertheless, it was impossible for the Islamic parties to achieve their goal of adopting the Islamic syaria by constitutional means, for since 1983 Soeharto, through a decision of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), required that all political parties and mass organizations could only have Pancasila as their ideological basis. Moreover, all decisions had to be made by unanimity (mufakat).

However, unity among the Muslims, particularly among Muslim parties and organizations, is always a far cry. As recent as the latest election of 1999, the Muslims were split into a number of parties. Indeed, in Parliament, the Islamic-based political parties set up "Central Axis. It was meant to be some kind of an alliance, a united front or perhaps united forum, rather than a merger, for cooperation and mutual consultations among Islamic- based political parties, each of which, alone, would constitute a minority. However, the Central Axis did not include the National Awakening Party (PKB), which is NU- based, thus strictly speaking, Islamic-based, especially the NU being the largest Muslim organization in the country.

It was the forces of the Central Axis that formed a strong and united opposition to Megawati Soekarnoputri of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), biggest winner of the election, and thus the strongest presidential candidate. They used her gender as their main weapon to bloc her election as President.

It was also the Central Axis, ironically, that catapulted Abdurrahman Wahid to the presidency, thus relegating Megawati to the vice presidency. More ironically, however, that it was also the withdrawal the support by the Central Axis for Abdurrahman Wahid that in the end forced him out of office, thus paving the way for Megawati's presidency.