Thu, 25 Mar 1999

Scenarios for democratization

This is the second of two articles based on a paper presented by Mohammad A.S. Hikam, a senior research associate of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), at a European Union- Indonesia Dialog organized by the International Dialogs Foundation (IDF) and the European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS) in Brussels on Feb. 23 to Feb. 24.

BRUSSELS: The gradual process of democratization will be stronger after the coming general election on June 7 if there is a change from the current Golkar-supported government to a reform-oriented regime.

In so doing, proreform groups should be able to obtain majority seats in the House of Representatives (DPR), which can be used as bargaining power during the general session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).

This will not be an easy endeavor, since under the existing political constellation, Golkar is conceivably maintaining its influence.

It seems reasonable to expect that the 200 seats designated for regional representatives and groups representatives would be in favor of Golkar. In addition, there is no guarantee that the military, with its 38 seats, will not back Golkar in MPR sessions, given the similarities of political interests in the past. It is therefore safe to say that to win the majority support, Golkar only needs approximately 31 percent of the votes, while reformist parties should win more than 51 percent in order to be able to form a new government.

The nagging question is whether Golkar would be capable of obtaining such votes and whether the main reformist parties -- PDI Perjuangan, PKB and the National Mandate Party (PAN) -- could garner more than 51 percent of votes in the next election.

As mentioned before, Golkar has experienced a serious political setback and it seems that a quick recovery is rather remote. Therefore, if the election is conducted fairly and freely, then it is highly impossible for Golkar to return as a single majority winner. Nor can it expect to muster enough votes to form a new government without support from the military and other parties.

Therefore, there is open speculation that it would adopt money politics and old patron-client networks, which are by and large still effective as an instrument for mobilization, particularly in rural areas. In addition, the military's involvement on behalf of Golkar cannot be discounted, especially when the electoral monitoring system is weak.

The other side of the coin is that the power of reformist parties is still insufficient to challenge Golkar without establishing a strong coalition. For PDI Perjuangan, for example, despite its strong support in rural areas evidenced by the mushrooming of its command posts, it is not clear that it can be directly translated into ballot box results in favor of the party. To date, the overwhelming support to the party basically still depends on Megawati's personality and the charisma of her father, the late president Sukarno, in addition to the prevalent antiestablishment mood. As a consequence, PDI Perjuangan still needs to expand its basis of support to include the urban middle- class society who are more pragmatic in its political orientation. This means that Megawati and her team have to create a sound platform in which economic recovery will be its priority in the context of gradual democratization.

PKB, whose support relies heavily on Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) members, still has to come up with more adequate mobilization strategies to expand its voters, including improving its human resources at the elite level. This could be decisive because NU will become the target of several parties' political maneuvering for the election. To be sure, such Islamic parties as the United Development Party (PPP), the United Believers Awakening Party (PKU) and the Nahdlatul Ummat Party (PNU), whose main bases of support are also NU, will be competing with PKB both on Java and the other islands.

But even Golkar will definitely target NU voters, especially in the predominantly Muslim areas of Java. Golkar can and will employ its networks of the kyai (traditional Islamic scholars) and pesantren (traditional Islamic boarding schools) for such a purpose which, prior to the demise of the New Order regime, was quite effective.

It is too early, therefore, to predict that NU voters will overwhelmingly support PKB outside NU and even from Muslim voters who have potential. This is partly the reason why PKB has chosen NU chairman Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid as its presidential candidate in the coming election.

Amien Rais' PAN is still struggling to be internally united. The danger of factionalism is by no means nonexistent despite the efforts to portray the party as a modern, nonsectarian political organization. As a matter of fact, there is tension within its elite between those who tend to use Islam and those who are more secular in orientation. At the grassroots level, the image that PAN is dominated by the members of Muslim organization Muhammadiyah remains strong which could hinder its capacity to accommodate a large segment of social groups.

On top of that, PAN is still heavily dependent on Amien's popularity. Amien, for the time being, is still portrayed as the most outspoken leader of the reformist groups. This means that PAN still has to work for expanding its base of support at the grass-roots level if it wants to be a more autonomous and a less figure-oriented party.

Other political parties such as PPP, the Crescent Star Party (PBB) and the Justice Party are, theoretically, not going to become big parties after the election. The exception is probably PPP, which could have strong support in areas outside Java, such as South Kalimantan, Jambi and Aceh. However, it seems difficult for the party to compete with PKB and PDI Perjuangan.

Based on the above political mapping, one can pinpoint the possible presidential candidates in the election. Golkar is likely to support incumbent President Habibie as its presidential candidate. However, there is an open possibility that Adi Sasono, minister of cooperatives, medium and small enterprises, as well as Akbar Tandjung, the chairman of Golkar and minister/state secretary, could also become Golkar's alternatives. Outside Golkar, Megawati, Gus Dur and Amien are the presidential hopefuls from PDI Perjuangan, PKB and PAN respectively. The vice presidential candidates are Gen. Wiranto and Yogyakarta Governor Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, who seem to have strong support from Golkar and PKB respectively. There is still no vice presidential nomination from both PDI Perjuangan and PAN.

For Golkar, in order to go smoothly with the scenario, it is possible that it would forge alliances with Islamic coalition parties and the military. The former will have no difficulty in supporting Habibie, who has been known as being close with the Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI). The latter can be expected to support Habibie if only because of its being pragmatic.

However, it is not entirely impossible that the military faction will carefully analyze the development of those competing parties. What is clear is that political support from the military is still required by any party to enable it to form the new government after the election.