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Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 15, 2009


ImageEmbracing Islamist Parties Poses Risks for Indonesian President




The growing conventional wisdom is that last week’s 2009 legislative elections were a resounding success. The wisdom holds that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party was a clear winner and, because his party is closely identified with the president, their victory is a sure sign the incumbent is more than likely to win a second term in office.

Campaign advisers to Yudhoyono have been speculating about the emergence of a “bandwagon” effect, whereby political parties of different stripes will soon start lining up to form a coalition with the purported front-runner, hence virtually guaranteeing a resounding mandate for Yudhoyono to lead the country until 2014.

Ostensibly, this yet-to-be-seen rainbow coalition — with the Democratic Party as its senior partner — will give the president majority control over the national legislature, enabling him to pursue and realize a more ambitious reform program than was previously possible.

A compelling story, indeed. Within 24 hours of the exit poll results being announced, Time magazine went so far as to call the elections a sure sign of success for Indonesia’s flowering democracy. Foreign governments have joined the chorus, congratulating the Indonesian government once again for managing to hold fair and transparent elections.

Before the optimists start popping the champagne corks, however, they should pay more attention to the warning signs that troubled waters could lie ahead. First, there is the risk of a rising consensus that the elections were illegitimate as a result of a combination of gross incompetence by the General Elections Commission and systematic fraud. Second, the presence of Islamist parties inside Yudhoyono’s coalition — which now seems imminent — could taint the president’s image and broad appeal before voters, turning the elections into an ideological battle between die-hard secularists and religious fundamentalists.

Less than a week has passed since the elections, and more than 500 complaints of irregularities and fraud across more than 30 provinces have been lodged with the Elections Supervisory Board. In some cases, the dead voted. In other cases, people who had already moved to a different address reappeared to cast their vote. Fictional names were created and registered, and those same fictional characters cast their votes. As the manual count proceeds there will surely be many more cases filed.

The question is, can the government reasonably and credibly handle a deluge of charges that the elections were rigged? Given the fact that preparations for the elections themselves were so poor, there is no good reason to believe the government is suitably prepared to handle disputes. As a harbinger of how the cases will be administered, listen to Jimly Assiddique, head of the Constitutional Court, who recently said, “The elections will probably be seen as illegitimate, but that’s OK. What is important is that they are declared legal.”

Secularists are watching SBY in morbid fascination to see if he betrays his principles for power

If Assiddique actually believes legal niceties will keep the critics at bay, he could be in for some nasty surprises. Already there are opposition parties planning to form a loose coalition to contest the results of the elections; the most vocal ones, such as Wiranto of the People’s Conscience Party, or Hanura, and Prabowo Subianto of the Great Indonesian Movement Party, or Gerindra, are now grouping around former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, the chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, who, according to various sources, is livid.

There is a high likelihood that Yudhoyono’s party will be looking to make coalition deals as quickly as possible, perhaps driven by the belief that once they have several parties signed up, they can more credibly point their collective fingers at the opposition and claim they are nothing more than a bunch of sore losers. Of course, if a Yudhoyono coalition is to be successful in shaming the opposition into accepting the results and moving on toward July’s elections without much ado, his strategists must first appease Megawati and her ardent supporters. Given the animosity Megawati has for Yudhoyono, there it little chance of that happening.

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