Thu, 25 Dec 2003

'Ideological map' in Indonesian politics

J. Soedjati Djiwandono Political analyst Jakarta

Later on, the Islamic-based political parties set up an "Islamic caucus" to promote unity among the Islamic parties, which seemed as remote as ever. Even the two largest Islamic organizations, the NU and the Muhammadiyah, are never united beyond occasional appearances. They are mostly at odds with each other in many respects, religious or otherwise. The NU-based PKB itself has been split into two wings.

Need for coalition?

With the general election just a around the corner, no single political party seems sure of its potential to win a single majority, a prospect no better than the 1999 election. The electoral law is thus a compromise between PDI Perjuangan and Golkar. The Golkar first proposed that a presidential candidate should be a university graduate, which would prevent Megawati's nomination for the presidency.

On the one hand, the PDI Perjuangan's first proposal was that no one found guilty of a crime with a sentence of three years imprisonment should be nominated to the presidency, clearly aimed at preventing Akbar Tandjung from presidential nomination.

Finally they reached a compromise: A presidential candidate should at least be a senior high school graduate, thus making the way open to Megawati's nomination. At the same time, the PDI Perjuangan agreed to a condition that one with a sentence of three years imprisonment could be a presidential candidate, which would then pave the way for Akbar's presidential candidacy.

Indeed, for certain reasons, the Golkar seems willing to go ahead with Megawati with a position of second fiddle in case Megawati turns out to be a formidable rival candidate for President. Short of winning a single majority, PDI Perjuangan's choice of coalition would be either the Golkar party, or a major Muslim party. The United Development Party (PPP) is clearly a party with strong Muslim support and aspiration. But it has been split between the Hamzah Has faction and the PPP Reformasi under Zainuddin M.Z.

In case of the need for a Muslim partner, therefore, the other option would be with the PKB, not the PPP. Thus, despite a split in the PKB, Taufik Kiemas, husband of President Megawati and a chairman of PDI Perjuangan, has recently met with Alwi Shihab, leader of one wing of PKB, presumably with the thought of a possible "coalition" with PDI Perjuangan if need be in support of Megawati's presidency. Despite its Islamic-base, the PKB is more nationalist than Islamic in orientation. Moreover, the Alwi Shihab wing is closer to former president Abdurahman Wahid (Gus Dur), who remains a political as well as religious figure of stature in the country. It seems doubtful, nevertheless, if Gus Dur would ever support Megawati.

Continued alignment, different strategy

Basically, the post-2004 election ideological alignment of Indonesian politics is likely to remain an antagonism of Nationalism versus Islam. However, even the issue of Islamic syaria, which some Islamic parties would like to see re-inserted in the 1945 Constitution through an amendment to Article 29 on religion, has failed to unite the Islamic parties or the Muslim community.

It is important to note, moreover, that in spite of reformasi, it remains a taboo to change the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution, which embodies the Pancasila ideology as has been formulated since the Proclamation of Independence. The Islamic parties, therefore, have tried to resort to an indirect method. Without any mention of the syaria, they have resorted to a trick with considerable success. This is what they are likely to continue to do in years to come. Failing to have the syaria re- inserted into the constitution, they may continue to imbue legislation with the spirit of the syaria, if without once making mention of the "syaria" itself.

In fact, under Soeharto's New Order, the pattern of decision- making in the legislative bodies, invariably took the form of "deliberations towards unanimity" (mufakat) And the Islamic parties already succeeded in having the marriage law of 1979 passed by mufakat, while the minority parties avoided being accused of practicing "tyranny by minority" by openly opposing the move. At the same time, while implicitly imposing the profession of a religion, which was against religious freedom, without mentioning the word "syaria", the marriage bill looked innocuous, and the Islamic parties in effect exploited the fear as well as naivety of the "nationalist" parties. The same was true of the law on the national system of education of 1988, which made religious education in schools compulsory.

The latest pattern of decision-making in the legislature, in this era of reform, is the "no-voting" method. This is not the same as Soeharto's style of unanimity. It is one in which a consensus is assumed to have been reached during the "lobby", thus outside formal sessions, among the different factions in the House - not the individual House members.

Thus the House speaker simply asks with disgusting nonchalance if the members present could agree on the enactment of the bill under discussion, and the members responded almost in unison, "agree", without the speaker in the least bothering to check if a majority of those present votes for the bill and how many, if any, against.

That was the case of the controversial new law on the national system of education. It was the most dishonest way of decision- making, especially in the light of such a strategically important legislation.

It was definitely not a decision based on unanimity, for the entire faction of the PDIP, the largest in the House, did not even attend the session. At least one faction, no matter how small, the faction of National Unity of Indonesia, did express opposition to the enactment of the law and proposed a postponement.

Secondly, it was doubtful if it was a valid decision, for the final session was considered to have met the quorum required, which was not based on the actual number of members attending that final session, but reportedly on the quorum reached at the first of the series of general sessions when it was first convened.

Thirdly, because there was neither voting nor unanimity, there was no record on the members' respective performance, so that in effect the members are not accountable to the people. But under the present system, House members are responsible to their parties, which they represent, rather than the people, in spite of their designation.

Finally, it was an unjust procedure of decision-making in view of the controversy of the bill. To force its enactment would amount to a tyranny by the majority, especially because the controversial issues relate to state intervention in matters of human rights, particularly freedom of religion, and thus in human conscience. Otherwise a majority decision through a democratic mechanism would be valid and legitimate, not a tyranny by the majority.

That, however, may well be the coming pattern of decision- making in the legislative bodies: the inclusion of the spirit of the Islamic syaria, if without an explicit mention of it. The plan to revise the criminal code based on Islamic law, if not explicitly stated, is a sign of gloomy things to come. While the world is progressing fast towards modernity, Indonesia is going for centuries' backwards.***