Indonesia’s Democracy in Danger
As expected, Prabowo Subianto, the mercurial ex-general and suspected human rights violator who lost the Indonesian presidential election in April to Joko Widodo and allowed a violent movement in his name to attempt to overturn the vote in May that cost the death of six persons, looks likely to be named to Jokowi’s second-term cabinet, probably as defense minister.
The elites who ran the country into the ground in the decades up to 2000 appear to be back in charge, one source told Asia Sentinel. The rapprochement elevates Prabowo, despite losing two previous presidential contests, back onto the stage for 2024. He is now 68.
The official cabinet announcement is expected tomorrow (Oct. 22). Prabowo visited the presidential palace today along with other individuals who are expected to be named to the cabinet, including the former chief justice of constitutional court Mahfud MD, Nadiem Makarim, the head of the popular for-hire startup Gojek, Jokowi campaign head Erick Thohir, Media businessman Wishnutama, Minahasa Selatan Regent and Golkar Party member Tetty Paruntu and Police Chief Tito Karnavian. Prabowo was accompanied by Gerindra deputy chairman Edhy Prabowo who is likely to be named agriculture minister.
The full cabinet is expected to be named tomorrow but it appears to be one that will be only partly of the president’s choice. The 58-year-old Jokowi is isolated within his own administration. He personally dialed back his inauguration celebration after students and reformers took to the streets last month to oppose his decision to allow a bill to go into law curbing the power of the Corruption Eradication Commission, known by its initials KPK, the country’s most admired public institution and a major bulwark against thievery by public officials.
The direction of the government from this time forward is uncertain despite the magnitude of his April victory over Prabowo, by 16.5 million votes. The president is clearly playing second fiddle to Megawati Sukarnoputri, the oligarchic matriarch who heads the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. Jokowi had earlier promised significant numbers would be filled with young technocrats. That may now be endangered.
Megawati, the daughter of Sukarno, the founding father of the country, and Prabowo are members of the Indonesian aristocracy. Despite the antagonism between the two in recent years, she and Prabowo ram unsuccessfully as a team in 2009, losing to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jusuf Kalla.
Jokowi, a former furniture dealer and mayor of a small central Java city who rose to power give the governorship of Jakarta, is not a member of the aristocracy and his power base is hostage to Megawati, who has grown disenchanted with him, and precarious in the extreme.
He faces a move to end direct democracy led by Megawati, Prabowo and a coterie of “Suharto-era power brokers” seeking to deprive him of his powers as president, returning the office to an appointive position at the behest of a majority of the legislature, which would also approve five-year plans to govern the country, in effect returning power to the oligarchs. It would take a four-fifths vote of the legislature to amend the constitution.
It seems an astonishing, if not depressing misreading of the electorate and Jokowi.
Megawati, who has long been disenchanted with Jokowi because of his reformist attitude and national star quality, served notice in a fiery speech to a party convention in August that she and she alone is in charge with the president forced to sit in the audience and watch. Jokowi told civic leaders earlier this month who demanded that he reverse the KPK bill that he is isolated and lacking support. One parliamentary leader went so far as to say the president could be impeached if he attempted to hold the line.
This month Megawati engineered the appointment of her daughter, Puan Maharani to head the house of representatives despite the daughter’s lack of legislative experience and shadows over her reputation. Setya Novanto, the former speaker who was put in prison for 15 years by the KPK, said Puan Maharani taken US$500,000 in bribes over the implementation of a corruption-riddled smart identification card that the KPK was investigating until the legislation that went into effect last week put the probe out of business.