Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Indonesian Presidential Election

Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Yorran Pakanakos, Socialist Party Melbourne
As The Melbourne Age noted ‘the platforms of both candidates were barely discernible during the campaign, reducing it to little more than a popularity contest.’ As highlighted in the last edition of ‘The Socialist’ this does not only reflect the lack of a genuinely progressive alternative to the politics of big parties and big business but also a concerted effort from the later to keep out any opposition.

The constitution places formal limitations on minor parties and bans particular ideologies. The law requires parties to have an executive board in at least half of the nation?s 30 provinces, in at least 50 percent of the regions (kabupaten/kota) in each province and in at least 25 percent of the local areas (kecamatan) within each region. These requirements place formidable barriers on new parties and entrench the existing parities founded during the Suharto dictatorship.
Even The Age points out that ?Indonesia remains a complex nation fraught with problems. Foremost among these is not Islamic extremism or even terrorism. It is the fact that 40 per cent of the workforce is either unemployed or under-employed. Poverty and public concern over jobs and prices, especially of staples such as rice and cooking oil, remain fundamental challenges for the incoming government.?
While Yudhoyono talked a lot about Indonesia?s problems during the campaign and used a lot of rhetoric he has failed to outline any specific policies or actions aimed at fixing any of Indonesia?s vast array of problems.
As the Jakarta Post editorialised: ?Three presidents have come and gone since the collapse of the corrupt Soeharto regime, and every one of them promised the same thing. They said they were going to go after big-time corrupters, repossess all stolen assets to shore up the ailing economy and send them to jail, but this was just empty rhetoric.?
It was this rhetoric against the establishment while at the same time not only taking no action but supporting it that led most Indonesians to believe that Soekarnoputri was incapable of taking the country forward and releasing it from the grip of poverty and corruption. This election should be seen not so much as a sign of positive support for Yudhoyono but a rejection of the failure of Soekarnoputri.
As the Financial Review notes ?During Yudhoyono 30-year military and political career, he was always more likely to deliver modest reform (if any) rather than push for any radical shake-up of the status quo. So far there is no evidence that Yudhoyono has been capable of transforming himself into a decisive leader.? Clearly, Yudhoyono is a supporter of the establishment and military elite who still wield most power in Indonesia.
The Financial Review declared shortly after the election that ?It would be brave to deliver judgement on an entire presidency just seven days into a five-year term, but already it seems safe to assume that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will not be the sort of gutsy, reformist leader that Indonesia urgently needs.? This paper made these ?brave? predictions not after the election but long before.
As was noted several issues ago reform is impossible in Indonesia where, even if Yudhoyono did want to push for significant reform, the endemic corruption and involvement of the military would subvert and undermine any reform. What most commentators such as the Financial Review ignore is that if there was any lesson that should have been learnt since 1998, reform under capitalism is doomed to failure.
The only solution to the poverty, unemployment, poor living standards and corruption which plague Indonesia is a challenge to the ?restructuring? of IMF and the World Bank, a challenge to the rule of profit over people ? a socialist challenge.


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