Thu, 04 May 2000

PDI Perjuangan and Golkar are still worlds apart

Amid signs of cooperation between the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and Golkar, lecturer in politics Cornelis Lay says it would be too risky for PDI Perjuangan to join forces with the former ruling party. An excerpt of the interview with the lecturer from Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta follows:

Question: The dismissal of two ministers has led to signs of cooperation between PDI Perjuangan and Golkar. How far do you think this will go?

Answer: It is difficult to envision a coalition of the two (parties) at this time because the only thing bringing them together is disappointment with the latest action of President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) in removing ministers from both parties.

Their replacements are from neither party and the replacements are judged to be no better (than their predecessors), particularly the replacement for (former state minister of investment and state enterprises development) Laksamana Sukardi.

This (shared disappointment) does not automatically lead to both parties becoming on par at the ideological level, a requirement for a coalition.

I think their political agendas will still be very different. But they could possibly work together in pressuring Gus Dur's government.

Any other reasons why a coalition between them is not possible?

Historical factors would be a constraint; widespread rejection would be faced at the grass roots. I think the elite of PDI Perjuangan have really taken this into account. Just look at the earlier congress, it was difficult for ex-Golkar members to be accepted as party executives. This indicates that the resistance by PDI Perjuangan members towards Golkar is still strong.

Secondly, both parties have similar social bases of support. But this is exactly what could obstruct attempts at a coalition.

Executives of PDI Perjuangan realize they could lose out to Golkar's political experience, strategic capability and resources.

If they formed a coalition, it would likely not benefit PDI Perjuangan in the 2004 elections. The risk for PDI Perjuangan would be too great; their supporters could move to Golkar shortly after the coalition was formed. So I don't think PDI Perjuangan would go that far (to form a coalition with Golkar).

Thirdly, at grass roots level the perception is still very strong that Golkar is the party responsible for much of the damage under the New Order. It would be too reckless for PDI Perjuangan to coalesce with them only one year after the fall of the New Order. So there are more factors distancing both parties than those bringing them together.

But isn't Golkar striving for a reformist image?

That's just because other parties are too slow. For instance, issues of "money politics" are being revealed in PDI Perjuangan, not Golkar. Also, the immaturity of politicians outside Golkar, who are enmeshed in squabbles, leads to the impression that Golkar has drastically changed and hence seems like the most mature party.

Actually, in principle Golkar has not changed much; it's still the political tool of the New Order pro-status quo.

Furthermore, those in PDI Perjuangan know full well that they have lost out to Golkar's strategies at the regional level. In competing for regents posts, almost all candidates from PDI Perjuangan lost to Golkar's machine politics.

Therefore, PDI Perjuangan must review whether it has capabilities to deal with Golkar.

Ahead of the August General Assembly, is there any chance of both parties working together to pressure Gus Dur to step down?

I don't think it will come to that, though this doesn't mean that no one in either party is trying to use the moment to end Gus Dur's government. But motivation for that isn't strong enough; Laksamana himself has said that representatives of PDI Perjuangan in the Cabinet should continue to support Gus Dur's government, and that he himself is only troubled by the dismissal due to issues of KKN ...

How is the dismissal of Laksamana and Kalla affecting parties internally?

Gus Dur's explanation of the reshuffle initially raised complications within PDI Perjuangan, because that explanation labeled Laksamana a party executive who could not work with (another party executive and Cabinet member) Kwik Kian Gie.

Added to that were rumors that the reshuffle was a result of rivalry within the party, heavily influenced by (Megawati's husband and party executive) Taufik Kiemas.

Meanwhile in Golkar, Kalla's replacement will encourage the development of ethnic politics. I think the replacement will be soon followed by movements from important groups in South Sulawesi to demand a federal state or even a separation (from the Republic). That's highly possible if Gus Dur does not immediately give a reasonable explanation.

What kind of pressure will PDI Perjuangan and Golkar likely exert on Gus Dur in August's General Assembly?

At most they will demand Gus Dur to behave better in politics by no longer making weird surprises leading to uncertainties in the bureaucracy and in the Cabinet.

I think stronger pressure on Gus Dur will come from the so- called "axis force" of Islam-oriented parties, which exerted pressure well before the recent reshuffle.

Pressure from Golkar and mainly form PDI Perjuangan will never reach a "fatal" degree, such as to the extent of withdrawing all party representatives from the government.

I'm also not sure whether PDI Perjuangan would ask Megawati to resign as Vice President as (fellow lecturer) Riswandha Imawan has suggested.

What is most likely is that the annual General Assembly will be the President's forum to convey his annual progress report, and it will also be the venue in which the President is called on to explain contemporary political issues including the ousting of five ministers in only six months.

Isn't Gus Dur facing a dilemma? He's used a prerogative to settle these governmental tasks, but he's also tied to deals in the formation of the original Cabinet.

The problem is having a presidential system of government by constitution, but in practice principles of a parliamentary system applies in this Cabinet.

We must also stress that this coalition is full of ethnic baggage which ties the President to the deals. It's these deals which Gus Dur is violating now.

However, even a President's prerogative is not a "mantra"-like power. President Abdurrahman only has two options; choosing someone (as minister or other state official) within the coalition deals, taking into account his or her political background; or choosing someone based on competency and professionalism without considering political background. (Asip A. Hasani)