Wed, 19 Apr 2000

Study finds little has changed in politics

JAKARTA (JP): A study conducted by the Institute for Policy and Community Development Studies (IPCOS) found no significant political changes had occurred in the country despite the democratic election in June 1999.

The study found the same sporadic connection between political parties and the electorate today which was seen during the New Order era.

The three-month project found small changes from the days of the New Order, with significant changes primarily in accommodating personnel moves among the political elite.

Current political conditions are only a different form of what was found during the New Order regime, IPCOS executive director Johan Menajang said on Tuesday as he announced the findings of the study.

The research, which was conducted in nine provinces -- South and North Sumatra, West Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, Irian Jaya and all the provinces in Java except Yogyakarta, found no direct political linkage between voters and political parties.

"Our political parties still very much depend on outside powers rather than their own members," Johan remarked.

He said the findings of the study revealed that several parties were funded by external sources which had no direct affiliation with the party. He added that the primary source of information for considering party policies also came from nonparty members.

Johan lamented the fact that these conditions maintained the dependency of political parties on outside groups while excising the role of voters.

"(As a result), we can see many issues concerning the public, such as the fuel subsidy and the increase in public transportation fares, lack initiative from legislators," Johan remarked.

The study was conducted through in-depth interviews with 314 respondents from various political parties, most of whom were councillors with over five years of experience.

In the report, IPCOS suggested the adoption of a new system for filtering the political leadership which is not dependent on a single person and accommodates the people's sovereignty.

The study received a strong reaction from senior Golkar Party member Burhan Magenda, who was invited to comment on the research.

Burhan said the findings should not be viewed with any sense of surprise or dismay as the country had undergone a reform, not a revolution, and thus only small changes had occurred in the short time since the democratic election.

He underlined the emergence of many young politicians free from the "contamination" of the New Order. "We can see in many political parties the emergence of young people, who are professionals, as the new leaders."

He claimed another change was taking place within his own party. "Many of our cadres are becoming increasingly bolder in expressing views which contradict the party's views, as seen during the election of the vice president."

According to Burhan, during the General Assembly of the People's Consultative Assembly last October, his party initially wanted to throw its support behind Hamzah Haz for vice president. However, many party members chose instead to support Megawati Soekarnoputri.

"It is also normal if the changes seem very small because many of us were raised and grew up during the 32 years of the New Order era, so maybe some of us do not know any other way in politics," he said.

Burhan remains confident democratization will work in Indonesia, as it has become a necessity for the country to survive. (dja)