Two months after the April 5 elections for the Indonesian legislature, Indonesians again went to the polls to directly elect the president. Like the previous elections ordinary Indonesians were left with little choice.
Candidates on offer included former military chief Wiranto, head of the Indonesian army during the brutal oppression of East Timor in 1999 for which he has been indicted by a united nations backed tribunal for war crimes, incumbent president Megawati Sukanoputri, who has been a major disappointment and failed to tackle any of the fundamental issues facing the people of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono former security chief under president Megawati, who despite western claims of him being a “clean” candidate has a reputation for overseeing massacres and torture.
The small number and difference in candidates is hardly surprising when 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 in the Suharto era.
The law also prohibits party sympathetic to separatist movements in Aceh, Papua or anywhere else, by prohibiting any activities, “which endanger the unity of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia”. Amazingly the law also formally prohibits any party “from embracing, developing, and disseminating the teachings of Communism/Marxism-Leninism”.
President Megawati, as a result of her inaction and incompetence was widely expected to miss out on the second round run off which will decide the presidency. To the surprise of many commentators she polled second, beating former military chief Wiranto, to face Yudhoyono in the run off in September.
Whoever wins the election however, one thing is for sure, nothing fundamental will change, continuation of IMF and world bank programs and “restructurement” is sure to continue. Corruption, crime and unemployment will remain and the problems of the Indonesian people will only get worse. As one Age reporter emphasised “regardless of who wins the second round of elections in September, Indonesia?s crippling problems will remain.
Any future Indonesian president will have to face high and growing unemployment and poverty, a business and investment climate that remains in a shambles, active and radical Islam and not least, a cohesive and politically resurgent military. Senior military officials may have their favourite candidates but in the final analysis they know their political strength lies in institutional unity and it is this that will underpin any new president.
Indonesians have a rich history of struggle and activism it is vital that they learn the lessons from this history and work towards the only way to improve the lives of ordinary people. An alternative to the corruption and exploitation of capitalism, a socialist alternative.
By Yorran Pelekanakis