Sunday, October 11, 2009

Activists Warn of Return to Indonesia's 'Bad Old Days’ of Authoritarianism

Analysts and activists are expressing concern about the health of Indonesia’s nascent democracy after the president’s Democratic Party and its coalition have gained near-dominant strength as a result of this year’s elections, warning of a possible return to the authoritarian days of the New Order era.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s Golkar Party was expected to serve in opposition to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party and its wide coalition. But last week Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Aburizal Bakrie was elected as its new chairman — a move seen bringing the party closer to the Democrats.

The appointment of Yudhoyono ally Rizal Mallarangeng to a senior position within the Golkar Party has strengthened that perception.

Meanwhile, Democrat support also helped Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) heavyweight Taufik Kiemas, the husband of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, attain the chairmanship of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) — a move analysts say was a political investment.

Kalla and Megawati were Yudhoyono’s opponents during July’s presidential election.
The Democrats have gained a strong hand in the House of Representatives, an institution intended as a check on the powers of the executive branch. Representatives from the Democrat-led coalition, plus Golkar representatives, hold more than 90 percent of the seats in the legislature.

The Indonesian Parliamentary Center has warned that the dominance of the coalition may turn the legislature into a rubber stamp, as it was during the Suharto era. Political analysts are eagerly awaiting the names of the new cabinet members, scheduled to be announced on Oct. 21, a day after Yudhoyono and Vice President-elect Boediono are inaugurated.

Yudhoyono has successfully consolidated his power in the executive and legislative branches, and should therefore use his political leverage to name the most deserving ministers to his cabinet.

There is a strong possibility that the government will be a semi-authoritarian government with a dictator for a leader.
by Camelia Pasandaran

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