|ELECTIONS, MUSLIM POLITICS AND DEMOCRATIZATION IN INDONESIA|
|Written by Azyumardi Azra|
|Thursday, 23 October 2008 21:43|
The long and tiring election year in Indonesia in 2004 was finally over in surprisingly peaceful manner. To recall once again, the elections began with the legislature general election on April 5th, followed by direct First Round of Presidential election on July 4th, and finally Second Round of Presidential election on September 20th. Despite bomb blast on September 9th2004 at the front of Australian embassy, the final run off of Presidential election ran smoothly with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and Muhammad Jusuf Kalla (MJK), respectively Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, as the clear winners defeating Megawati Soekarnoputri, the incumbent President, and Hasyim Muzadi.
The completion of the election and the formation of new government under President SBY and Vice President MJK have arguably accelerated the peaceful transition of Indonesia from authoritarianism to democracy. Only six years ago the autocratic Soeharto regime was forced to abruptly end its long held power for more than three decades. Following the introduction byPresident BJ Habibie—who replaced President Soeharto—of liberal and multi-party politics since 1998, hopes for a smooth transition to democracy have seemingly withered away in the aftermath of the 1999 general election with continued political fragmentation and conflict among political elites and political parties.
In fact the democratically elected President Abdurrahman Wahid through the Peoples’ Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat/MPR) in 1999 was impeached in 2001 for mismanagement and erratic attitude. MPR through its special session later replaced him by President Megawati Soekarnoputri. President Megawati was able to bring political stability and improved Indonesian economy. Despite of a great deal of criticism towards her government, the successful 2004 general election was, one should admit, the greatest achievement of President Megawati Soekarnoputri. With the same token, her greatest weakness was her failure to address the spread of ever rampant KKN (korupsi, kolusi, nepotisme or corruption, collusion and nepotism).
Compatibility of Islam and Democracy
The fair, free and peaceful elections have shown to the world that Indonesia—being the largest Muslim nation in the world—that Indonesian Islam is indeed compatible with democracy. As a largest Muslim country Indonesia is neither Islamic state nor is Islam the official religion of the state. Since its independence on August 17, 1945, Indonesia tried to adopt democracy; what was implemented, however, was a kind of quasi-democracy, which was called “Guided Democracy” (Demokrasi Terpimpin) during the period of President Soekarno and, “Pancasila Democracy” (Demokrasi Pancasila) during the era of President Soeharto.
Therefore, Indonesian citizens have very little knowledge of and experience with real and genuine democracy. That is way in the early years of the Indonesian experience in democracy in the so-called period of reforms (masa reformasi) there is a lot of signs of the “breakdown” of democracy; indeed what has happened was a kind of “demo-crazy” since democracy seems to be understood by certain segments of Indonesian society as massdemonstration that often ended on chaos and anarchy.
The success of Indonesia to hold general elections in peaceful way should silence the skeptics who wrongly believe that democracy can not have strong root in a dominant or pre-dominant Muslim country. The case is probably true in particular Muslim countries elsewhere, but that should not be taken into sweeping generalization. The Indonesian case shows that Islam is not inherently undemocratic or incompatible with democracy. In fact there is a lot of Islamic principles and teachings that compatible with democracy.
The seemingly incompatibility between Islam and democracy is a result of literal understanding of certain verses of the Qur’an, or of taking only certain aspect of Islam and ignoring other at the same time. In addition, the failure of democracy is many Muslim countries due mainly to a number of internal and external factors that inhibit the growth of democracy; some of the most important inhibiting factors are, among others, weak economic condition, backwardness in education, lack of socio-cultural capital and, not least important, the support of Western powers towards undemocratic regimes in Muslim countries.
Furthermore, the Indonesian exercise in democracy has shown the fallacy of the so-called “democratic trap” theory which argues that the democratic opening in Muslim countries would result only in the rise to power of the Islamists, not to say Muslim fundamentalists. In line to this theory, certain regime, supported by certain Western countries, annulled the results of the election when the Islamists or Islamic parties would seem to win the election. The classic example of the interference in democracy is the Algerian case; the West-supported regime annulled the election in the early 1990s when the Islamic party FIS seemed to win the elections and, thus, would replace the Western-supported ruling regime.
This unexpected interference has in fact alienated the proponents of democracy in Muslim countries from democracy; the double-standard attitude of some Western countries has produced some disillusionment among Muslims who love to see democracy becomes the order of the day in their country. The democracy trap argument has proven wrong in Indonesian case.
The Indonesian elections have in fact shown that Islamic parties or the Islamists have not been able to ride the waves of the democratic opening nor to create a “democratic trap”.
Islam and Transformation of Indonesian Politics
As far as Islam is concerned, the results of the 2004 general elections in Indonesia indicate a number of interesting political developments, not only in the Presidential election, but also in the legislature one. All in all, I would argue, Islam and Islamic issues—such as the possible implementation of shari`ah or Islamic law—did not become central and big issues throughout general elections. Indonesian people in general, in contrast, were concerned mostly with issues they face in real life, such continued economic hardship, more rampant corruption, lack of law enforcement, increased insecurity, continued spread of narcotics and other forms of social ills.
The best example in this is Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS or Prosperous and Justice Party), the most Islamically-oriented conservative party that was able to substantially increase its gains the last election from less that two percent in the 1999 election to seven percent. The party succeeded in getting more voters not because they campaigned for the implementation of shari’a or the transformation of Indonesia into an Islamic state, but rather for the fight against corruption and creation of good governance.
The first direct Presidential elections have substantially transformed Indonesia politics. Some of the most important tendencies are; firstly, political parties have not been able now to dictate their will on the members let alone the masses as a whole. Even though big parties like Golkar party—which won the legislature elections—PDIP, PPP and others forged the socalled “Nation Coalition” (Koalisi Kebangsaan) to contain the momentum of SBY-JK—who in contrast formed what they called “People Coalition” (Koalisi Rakyat)—this pair won the elections any way. More than that, the appeal of Hasyim Muzadi—the non-active national leader of NU, who was also the Vice-Presidential candidate of Megawati Soekarnoputri—to the kiyai and their masses to vote for his favor has also failed. These indicate that the Indonesian voters are now becoming more independent and more rational in their political and voting behavior; they can not now be dictated by their party leaders or by their kiyai; now decide themselves.
Secondly; the election of SBY-JK also shows the continued decline of the so-called “politik aliran” theory. According to this theory—based on Clifford Geertz’ divisions of “santri” (strict Muslims), “abangan” (nominal Muslims) and “priyayi” (aristocracy)—Indonesian politics was heavily divided along religious line and traditional loyalty. Sociological and religious changes that have been taking place since that last decade of Soeharto’s rule have contributed to the rapid demise of the politik aliran. Indonesian politics, since the the reform era, has been characterized by less and less politik aliran. In contrast what has characterized Indonesian politics since then is “interest politics” if not “opportunist politics”. The election of SBY-JK clearly shows that religious line is no longer relevant. Though SBY has been called by some international media as a “secular” person, he is known in Indonesia as good and practicing Muslim; while JK on the other hand has long been known as having more Islamic credentials, being the former leader of HMI (Association of University Muslim Students), for instance.
Thirdly; despite the 9/9 bomb blast, Indonesian Islam remains moderate and tolerant Islam. The bomb has in fact contributed to a more resolute and stronger attitude among Indonesian Muslims in general to confront radicalism; more and more Muslims abandon the defensive and apologetic attitude towards the ruthlessness of the perpetrators of the bombing. The belief among some people of the so-called “conspiracy theory” seems to decreasing. Virtually all Muslim leaders issued statements in strongest terms ever to condemn the bombing. The police investigation of the bombing makes it clear that the “intellectualist actors” of the bombing are Malaysian—DR Azhari and Nurdin M. Top—who recruited some misled Indonesians. Therefore, there is strong tendency that radical and militant groups or terrorist groups are foreign-led, rather than home-grown ones. This again, confirms that Indonesian Muslims are basically moderate and tolerant Muslims; but they must be aware of negative foreign influence brought in by foreign Muslims.
With that kind of development both at the societal and government levels, the latest bomb blast in Kuningan, Jakarta, will only force other radical groups to lay low. It is no secret that a good number of suspected people have been arrested by the police after the disclosure of the networks of the perpetrators of Bali bombing on October 12, 2002; more alleged terrorists were detained and brought to justice after Marriott bombing in Jakarta; and more of them have been put into police custody in the aftermath of the Kuningan bombing.
Therefore, one of the most important keys to address terrorism in Indonesia is more stringent law enforcement; the professionalism and credibility of the police in the investigation of the perpetrators of bombing and other kind of terrorism is very crucial in addressing terrorism. With public support, the police are now in a better position to decisively act in the war against terrorism.
Prospect of The SBY-MJK Administration
There are a lot of signs that the post-election Indonesia is more likely to be more stable. The expectation towards the new national leadership is now is still running high in Indonesia despite some disappointments towards the SBY and MJK administration. President SBY has been regarded as an indecisive figure in contrast to Vice President MJK who seems to be more
decisive. Many people have initially believed that one of the most important keys for President SBY and Vice-President MJK to get an ever stronger support from the people was their ability to form a cabinet that could win the widest possible public acceptability. In the end, for many people it is disappointing that SBY-MJK cabinet consists of some ministers that are lacking of credibility and professionalism in their field. President SBY seemed to have been very compromising with political parties in particular.
Despite this problem, so far is still quite good for President SBY; and it seems that he is able to lead Indonesia on the right way. He was able, for instance, to overcome one of his greatest challenges in the aftermath of his inauguration as President; that was the possible tension and conflict between him and the “Nation Coalition”, consisting of the Golkar Party and PDI-P, which dominates the seats in the Parliament (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat/DPR). But, the Nation Coalition proved to be very fragile, that it in the end was not able to contest President SBY. The interest or opportunist politics among Parliament members and party politics makes it possible for the SBY government to run with minimum opposition from and conflict with the DPR.
The SBY theme of K2A (Konsiliasi, Konsolidasi, Aksi, or Conciliation, Consolidation, and Action) has been very appropriate and a smart move for President SBY to anticipate maneuvers against him from the DPR. Furthermore, the election of Vice-President Jusuf Kalla—with SBY ‘blessing’ of course—as the new chairperson of the Golkar Party that possesses the largest number of seats in DPR, has effectively reduced the possible head on collision between President SBY administration and the DPR.
There is no doubt that the Tsunami disasters that struck some areas of the Aceh and North Sumatra provinces on December 2004 have slowed down the efforts of the SBY-MJK government to resolve Indonesia’s huge economic and social problems. In fact there was a lot of confusion within government circles not only in how to give quick responses to the tsunami disaster, but also in the post-tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction. There has been continued delay in the rehabilitation and reconstruction because of problems of coordination. After one in power, one has to admit, there has been little progress achieved by the SBY administration. The government has not been able to accelerate economic recovery, if not development. In fact, in the last several months, Indonesian economy has been very sluggish. Macro economic indicators such as the value of rupiah and the Jakarta Composite Index continue to decline, creating some kind of panic among government circles.
One of the little good news is the seemingly serious SBY campaign against corruption. Time and again President SBY asserted that his administration is committed to the eradication of rampant corruption. For that end, he issues permission to the police as well as to the National Anti Corruption Commission to investigate a good number of governors, district chiefs, members of parliament. Despite all the news about the war against corruption, it remains doubtful whether the SBY government would be able to significantly eradicate the rampant corruption in the country.
With regards to consolidation, the period of next five years is indeed the period of consolidation for Indonesia. The SBY government needs not only to consolidate efforts to solve Indonesia’s huge internal problems, but also to reconsolidate the very fabric of Indonesian society. There is now an increasing need to reconsolidate civil society and NGOs as a pillar of democracy. In the last election—as the case since the fall of Soeharto—civil society and NGOs at large have also been pulled into power politics. This is particularly true with the NU when its national chief Hasyim Muzadi decided to run as Vice-Presidential candidate of Megawati Soekarnoputri. Tension and conflict resulted from Hasyim’s candidacy need to be resolved.
Otherwise, this largest Muslim organization in Indonesia can not function effectively for a better ordering of Muslim society. One year on, the consolidation of Muslim civil society remains unfinished agenda. In contrast, there is a number of discouraging signs within Indonesian Islam. There have been intensified attacks against the groups considered ‘deviant’ such as the Ahmadiyahs. This was followed by the issuance of a number of fatwa (religious edicts) by the Indonesian Council of Ulama (Majelis Ulama Indonesia/MUI) in the late July 2005 that are not conducive for healthier and more harmonious inter-religious relations in Indonesia. The fatwas have in fact been used by the radicals to justify violence against groups considered deviants from what they believe as the ‘true’ Islam.
The failure of the SBY government to bring the perpetrators of the violence attacks against the Ahmadiyahs, for instance, could lead Indonesia into a new stage of communal tension and violence. So far, at least temporarily, the radicals have restrained themselves from making SBY as their target. This is due to some of SBY policies, such the war against gambling, drug abuse and prostitution launched by the new police chief, that they regard in line of their efforts. But if the SBY government fails to solve the current economic problems—that soon be followed by political and social problems—the radicals would be sooner to reassert themselves.
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|Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 October 2008 20:19|