Happy 69th Birthday, Indonesia

August 17, 2014

Happy 69th Birthday, Indonesia

To All Our Friends, Associates, Bapak Presiden, Government and People of Indonesia

Indonesia's 69 th Year of Independence

indonesiaindependenceday_300Dr Kamsiah and I warmly congratulate your great country on the occasion of its 69th Birthday which falls today. As a major partner in ASEAN, you have a crucial role to play for peace and stability of South East Asia. Your economic prosperity too is vital to all of us. That is why your recent Presidential Elections was closely watched by all of us. It was a resounding success and we can be justifiably proud of what you have achieved in furthering the cause of democratic politics.

August 17, 2014

On this very special day, we pray for your continued success and prosperity, and extend our warm salams to you  all. Dirgahayu, Republik Indonesia –Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

The Malaysian Insider Looks at the Issues around The KI Saga

August 12, 2014

OPINION: The Malaysian Insider Looks at the Issues around The KI Saga

PKR’s move to remove Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim as the Menteri Besar of Selangor seems to have been going on forever.

But make no mistake, this is not just some personnel change – the drama in Selangor has national consequences and even touches on the kind of country we desire. The Malaysian Insider looks at some of the issues raised by the saga in Selangor.

1) First in the World

Khalid ib3

Take a bow, Khalid. You are officially a one-of-a-kind politician. You have been sacked from your political party, are unwanted by two of the three component parties in Pakatan Rakyat, do not seem to enjoy the support of the State Exco but yet believe that you should remain as the Menteri Besar. The only chaps who are wholeheartedly supporting you belong to UMNO-Barisan Nasional. Surely that is telling.

2) Going overseas, now?

The Royals across the country love to say how they have the interests of the rakyat at heart and all that other mushy stuff.If this is a fact and not some self-serving statement, then the Sultan of Selangor should postpone his trip overseas and ensure that the Selangor crisis is resolved according to the Law and in a transparent fashion.

HRH The Sultan of SelangorHas Khalid misled HRH Sultan of Selangor?

The Malaysian Insider today reported that PKR has 32 signed statutory declarations from state assemblymen who want Khalid removed. That’s 32 out of 43 Pakatan Rakyat representatives, a clear majority.

Yesterday, Khalid said he had the backing of the majority. Someone is clearly lying. The Law as laid down by the Federal Court clearly states that there is no need to test the fitness of an MB on the state assembly floor and that what is needed is proof that he has lost the support of the majority.

Khalid’s assertion in the Palace will not do. The Perak Royal household is still reeling from the power grab because the public felt that justice and fairness were not served in that sorry episode. There will forever remain an asterisk next to the name of the Perak Royal Household because of that power grab.

The Sultan of Selangor should do everything to ensure fair play in this crisis. A good starting point is to postpone his overseas trip and find out who really has the support of the Assembly.

3) PAS must decide

Aziz and Hadi ShowIt’s The Aziz-Hadi Show now–Balik Kampong

Whether Khalid stays or finally steps down as MB, the dynamics in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) have changed – for good. And that is a good thing. There have been too many compromises to make this coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS work. Some fundamental differences have been put on the back burner for too long and these have come back to bite PR.

Chief among these differences is the notion of equality. In coalition politics, all parties must have one vote and that vote must have equal strength vis-a-vis other partners. So if PKR and DAP decide on a course of action, PAS, despite its misgivings, must concede to the majority view. Similarly, if PKR and PAS agree on a seat allocation, then DAP must go along with the majority view.

Unfortunately, the hardliners in PAS, led by Party President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, seem to believe that the Islamist party’s vote carries more power. This is akin to the practice in Barisan Nasional where what UMNO says, goes.

There is also some queasiness in PAS about women leaders and standing up for the rights of non-Muslims and non-Malays. To be fair, it remains unclear if this is the majority view in PAS or the position of Hadi and other hardliners.

What is clear is that the PAS party elections next year will see a battle royale between the clerics and the professional class for the soul of the party. If Hadi and gang prevail, it is unlikely that Pakatan Rakyat will be a three-party coalition.

This development will be crushing news for Malaysians who want the two-party system to be entrenched. But surely it is preferable that parties with different ideas about right and wrong, race relations and gender acknowledge these yawning gaps and go their separate ways.

4) Leadership

Kajang MoveKajang Move is one Big Mess

PKR has made a mess of its Kajang Move. Obviously it has not indicated clearly enough the entire saga of the Kajang by-election, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s purported nomination, followed by his wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and its implications for Khalid and the Selangor PKR. Or for that matter, its allies in Pakatan Rakyat.

How can its strategy to strengthen the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat government have led to the brewing saga today – a Menteri Besar sacked from his party and without apparent support from the coalition that put him in office?

PKR keeps saying it is a party that believes in justice and transparency, but its leadership has a funny way of expressing those ideals. The Selangor saga will cost the party in the next general elections.

Because now it has a track record of a party that appears to lurch from crisis to crisis, some apparently self-inflicted. That does not augur well for a party that believes it can do a better job of running the country than its political rivals.

Jokowi’s Rise and Indonesia’s Second Democratic Transition

August 2, 2014

APBNumber 273 | August 1, 2014


Jokowi’s Rise and Indonesia’s Second Democratic Transition

By Vibhanshu Shekhar

“Indonesian democracy no longer feeds off an elite-led political framework and Indonesia’s elected leaders need not have a military background or connection with political families or business elites. For the first time, a village (kampung) boy and a commoner with no political legacy managed to defeat a powerful coalition of traditional political elites that had gathered around Prabowo Subianto, who is a former military general and son-in-law of former Indonesian dictator Suharto. The bulk of Jokowi’s election financing came in the form of small donations, in comparison to Prabowo’s large-scale contributions from a small group of elites.”–Vibhanshu Shekhar

The electoral battle for the presidency in the world’s largest Muslim–and Asia’s second largest–democracy finally came to a close on July 22 when the Indonesian Election Commission (KPU) announced Djoko Widodo, popularly known as “Jokowi,” as the winner. Jokowi’s victory highlights the growing popular and political support for a new kind of democratic politics in Indonesia that is progressive, transparent and broad-based, and that thrives on the expectations of a generation of young people born in a democratic Indonesia.

Jokowi. IrJokowi’s rise marks the beginning of Indonesia’s second democratic transition. The official announcement of the result has put an end to weeks of divisive and emotionally charged campaigns, and two weeks of post-election stalemate that pushed the country towards political uncertainty. Both candidates–Jokowi and Prabowo Subianto–had each claimed victory based on unofficial counts. Prabowo has accused the KPU of “massive, systematic and structural cheating” and petitioned before the Constitutional Court, Indonesia’s apex body on election matters, for an annulment of the KPU results and its declaration of Jokowi’s victory. It should be noted that the Constitutional Court received such petitions during both the previous presidential elections of 2004 and 2009, and rejected them.

Out of the approximately 135 million valid votes cast, Jokowi received 53 percent and won the majority of votes in 23 provinces, whereas Prabowo won the majority of votes in 10 provinces in West Java and further west. Jokowi received the majority of his votes from the most populous island of Java–approximately 54 percent–and the outer islands of Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and Papua. He also won a majority of votes in those provinces where minority communities are in the majority, such as Bali, Papua, and West Papua, highlighting support for his policy of inclusivism. Total eligible voters in Indonesia are nearly 190 million.

Jokowi’s victory, besides putting democracy in Indonesia on a much stronger footing, has highlighted the changing characteristics of democracy in that country, which can well be viewed as Indonesia’s second democratic transition. While the Reformasi movement of 1998 introduced democracy to Indonesia under a negotiated settlement between the political elite and civil society, this second transition has witnessed civil society effectively wresting control of the political process from the hands of the political elite. This is what Philips J. Vermonte of CSIS Indonesia terms the “beginning of an end of old oligarchic politics,” an ascent of a new generation of leadership without any political legacy or long-standing patronage system.

Indonesian democracy no longer feeds off an elite-led political framework and Indonesia’s elected leaders need not have a military background or connection with political families or business elites. For the first time, a village (kampung) boy and a commoner with no political legacy managed to defeat a powerful coalition of traditional political elites that had gathered around Prabowo Subianto, who is a former military general and son-in-law of former Indonesian dictator Suharto. The bulk of Jokowi’s election financing came in the form of small donations, in comparison to Prabowo’s large-scale contributions from a small group of elites.

Megawati Sukarnoputri, the leader of Jokowi’s party, the Indonesian Party of Struggle (PDI-P), read the winds of change better than her counterparts. Sensing the growing popularity and electability of Jokowi, Megawati decided to hand over the mantle of the PDI-P to him and nominate him as her party’s presidential candidate, shunning both her own and, moreover, her daughter’s budding presidential ambitions. Jokowi’s victory, along with his sporadic and spontaneous mobilization of voters, took place despite his unorganized election campaign and the continuing unpopularity of Megawati.

A new political voting class in Indonesia is now beginning to emerge that is keen to play a role in the country’s democratic politics, is well-informed of issues and interests, and expects a government that is accountable. They are assertively pushing forward an agenda of good governance and transparent leadership that is reform-oriented and free of corruption. They treat democracy as intrinsically ingrained in their identity and place a premium on transparency and accountability. As their expectations are going up, this new-emerging techno-savvy voter bloc is demanding effective responses from the political elite over various issues, such as countering corruption, addressing current economic challenges, and a more responsive government. Their continuing frustration with political parties is evident from the fact that no single party received more than 20 percent of votes in the April general elections. On the other hand, Jokowi’s lackluster and commoner’s image attracted their attention, and their vote.

Rules of the game in Indonesian politics have become more democratic with political parties, institutions and citizens adhering to democratic norms. For example, even though the recalcitrant Prabowo had objections to the KPU process, he has, to date, adhered to the institutional procedures laid out by the electoral rules and regulations. Indonesian democracy has just survived the nerve-racking pressure of political mobilization amidst a highly charged emotional situation, and at the same time, successfully resisted the temptation to resort to violent conduct.

No major case of violence was reported on the actual day of the presidential elections, during the process of tallying votes, or during the celebrations afterwards. This trend of democratic consolidation is also discernible from the increased capacity of the different governing institutions to regulate and manage the election process. Indonesian elections are being managed with increased efficiency by the relevant agencies and institutions carrying out their allocated roles, notwithstanding procedural complexities, and logistical difficulties associated with the elections. The KPU has delivered very efficiently and without bias. Indonesia conducted this electoral exercise twice within three months, first to elect the parties and candidates for the national, provincial and municipal legislative bodies (April 9), and then to elect the country’s president (July 9). In total, approximately 190 million citizens exercised their voting rights twice. Each of the elections took place in a single day, making it the largest electoral exercise in the world.

The failure of Prabowo’s Suharto style of politics of fear and intimidation in bringing about the desired result augurs well for Indonesian democracy to let go of its extremely difficult and torturous past under Suharto. Jokowi’s presidency now offers Indonesians another five years to move beyond the baggage of Suharto’s dictatorship and usher the country into another chapter of solidifying real democratic governance. Many, both within and outside of Indonesia, had feared that the Prabowo variant of elite-led politics dominated by moneyed interests, oligarchs, and religious extremists along with his advocacy of strong leadership, would arrest Indonesia’s democratic momentum and plunge the country back into the dreaded authoritarian politics of the Suharto era. It was in this context of safeguarding their fledgling democracy that two Indonesian newspapers–the Jakarta Post and Media Indonesia–went to the extent of officially endorsing Jokowi and breaking their neutrality on the ground that stakes were too high in this election.

Notwithstanding Jokowi’s rise, Indonesia’s second democratic transition remains a work in progress. It is a not going to be a completely smooth process, due primarily to the minority nature of Jokowi’s government and the inevitable continuity of coalition politics within Indonesia. A rough road lies ahead for the Jokowi presidency, particularly in the legislative body that will offer strong resistance from the conservative elite to any effort to introduce more democratic change and politico-economic reforms. Now that voters have had their say, the difficult act of balancing various political forces and factions will require deft diplomacy from newcomer Jokowi.

About the Author

Dr. Vibhanshu Shekhar is a Scholar-in-Residence at ASEAN Studies Center, School of International Service, American University. He can be contacted via email at vibesjnu@gmail.com.


The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue. Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Damien Tomkins, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

Indonesia’s Presidential Elections 2014: A Lesson for Malaysia

July 26, 2014

Indonesia’s Presidential Elections 2014: A Lesson for Malaysia

by Karim Raslan@www.thestar.com.my


What’s striking is how much more advanced the republic’s elections have become, with the General Elections Commission uploading a photograph of each of the result forms from all 479,000 voting stations.

Jokowi. IrINDONESIA has a new President and – to the relief of many – it’s Joko Widodo or Jokowi as he is fondly known.

His extraordinary personal journey, from the slums of Solo to the Istana Negara, says as much about the man as it does about the republic itself, now into its 16th post-Reformasi year. The excitement is palpable but we must hope and pray that this fairy tale-like story, with its egalitarian hue, ends in real achievements and a better life for all Indonesians.

Even though I am a proud Malaysian, the 2014 presidential elections has reminded me of how our politics is so very disappointing.We used to regard Indonesia as a basket case. But they have shown that their democracy hasn’t impeded economic development. Moreover, it remains vigorous despite the determined manipulation of the pre-Reformasi elites.

Consider this fact – some 133 million voters cast their ballots on July 9 – much more than some 120 million who turned out in 2009 to re-elect President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY).

Still, many of my Malaysian friends kept (and are still) buzzing me about the elections.This was especially after his challenger, Prabowo Subianto, regrettably and petulantly refused to accept the results. The tone from my fellow Malaysians was generally along these lines: “My God! It was so close!

Will Bapak be allowed to win? Will there be violence?” This, I suppose, betrays the fundamental differences in politics between Malaysia and Indonesia – as well as what we can learn from our neighbour to the south.

First off, Jokowi’s margin of victory over Prabowo (70,633,576 votes or 53.15% of the popular vote to 62,262,844 votes or 46.85%) was by more than eight million votes and 6%.

A narrow win? Perhaps. But let’s not forget that Barisan Nasional only won 47.38% of the popular vote in Malaysia’s 2013 general election.

Indeed, the eight million-plus voters who propelled Jokowi to victory make up over 60% of the total voter turnout at the Malaysian polls last year. So while Prabowo can try to halt Jokowi via legal challenges – the fact remains that the Solo-born entrepreneur’s victory was clear and decisive.

But what’s really struck me is how much more advanced and sophisticated Indonesia’s elections have become.On polling night itself, various reputable polling houses were able to release “quick counts” that gave a remarkably accurate reading of the election results.

Over the weeks that followed, the “real count” by the General Elections Commission of Indonesia (KPU) was updated in “real” time on their official website. Parallel websites were also put up by civil society groups, monitoring the recapitulation.

Furthermore, the KPU actually uploaded a photograph of each of the result forms (dubbed C1) from all 479,000 voting stations.This is transparency. Having had to endure our own elections first-hand on live TV, I can say that the Indonesian election process was far more open and robust.


A Remarkable Journey to the Presidency

More importantly, Indonesia’s elections – and I’ve said this before – also featured lively and extensive debates between Jokowi and Prabowo plus their running mates: five separate nationally televised events, covering a range of subjects from the economy to foreign policy.

This process forced the candidates to articulate and argue for their respective platforms. The debates varied – some were boring and over-full of rhetoric. Others were scintillating.Whatever the case, the voters were able to decide for themselves as to the suitability of the two candidates.

Indonesia and Malaysia are united by language but separated by political experience. We are still living in the equivalent of Suharto’s New Order with a drastically curtailed and censored media while they are savouring a dramatically more open environment. So for those who question the scale of Jokowi’s victory, I say don’t just look at the result, consider the process.Isn’t it time we move forward?

Karim Raslan is a regional columnist and commentator. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. His online documentaries can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/user/KRceritalah. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Indonesia’s New Leadership

July 23, 2014

The Guardian view on what the election of Joko Widodo will mean for Indonesia


The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014 19.55 BST

Jokowi JK

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country, the third largest democracy, and the biggest Muslim nation. It made the transition from dictatorship to democratic rule after the fall of Suharto in 1998 with remarkable smoothness. For years it counted with Turkey as a leading model of democracy for the Islamic world. Now, with Turkey showing signs of a regression to authoritarianism, troubled democracies in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and only Tunisia still holding on to what now seem the very fleeting achievements of the Arab spring, Indonesia constitutes, because of its size and importance, a massive and even more relevant proof that democracy can work as well in Muslim societies as in others.

The victory of Joko Widodo in the presidential elections, although still disputed by his opponent, represents a further advance in Indonesian political life. It means that for the first time a person with no direct connections with the older, authoritarian era will occupy the country’s highest office. The departing president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was an ex-military man from the Suharto years and the son-in-law of a general involved in the massacres of communists in the 60s.

His predecessor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, is the daughter of the first head of state, Sukarno, who also ruled, under his “Guided Democracy”, in an authoritarian way. The first president after Suharto, Abdurrahman Wahid, was the scion of a leading religious family. Although these two were opposition figures, they still had connections with the largely military ruling class. The other candidate in this election, Prabowo Subianto, a former Special Forces General and a son-in-law of Suharto, was very much from that class. Joko Widodo is not. He comes from a humble background, working his way through school and then becoming a successful but middling businessman.

Indonesia managed its way out of the shipwreck of the old regime by a series of complex compromises between old and new, with the dangers of violence, separatism, parliamentary dysfunction and party proliferation very much in mind. These had destroyed Indonesian democracy in the 50s. There was no generalised purge. The problem was that too much of the old might survive, with only slightly reconstructed figures from Suharto’s “New Order” continuing to dominate, and service in the armed forces or membership of the intertwined business elite of those years continuing to be a qualification for power. The connections between old and new are by no means entirely hacked away. Prabowo may be gone, but Jokowi, as he is known, is the protege of Megawati and has as his vice-presidential running mate Jusuf Kalla, a former Chairman of Golkar, the old government party under the New Order. But there is nevertheless a sense that a new chapter has now begun in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s Decisive Moment

July 21, 2014

Indonesia’s Decisive Moment

by Farish A. Noor@www.nst.com.my

TOMORROW will mark the decisive moment when Indonesians will know who will be the country’s next president. The mood in the country — already anxious and tired after a long wait and a hard-fought contest — is one of anticipation and also concern about what will happen next.

Prabowo lawan JokowiIt is interesting to note that despite the fact that both candidates have refused to concede defeat, cracks have begun to show among some of their supporters already: Abdillah Toha, one of the founding leaders of the Peoples’ Trust Party (PAN), has appealed to the Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa camp to admit defeat and to accept the results, whatever the outcome may be.

Unfortunately, it is not likely that this stalemate will be resolved any time soon. For starters, the final margin between the two candidates proved to be much smaller than hoped for, by both sides.

The Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Jusuf Kalla camp had signalled that it expected, and wished for, a lead of more than 10 per cent. This has not happened, and after the quick count results came in two weeks ago, it appeared that the lead enjoyed by Jokowi-Kalla’s camp was less than five per cent. A smaller number of quick count agencies suggested that the Prabowo-Hatta camp had gained the lead, but again, with a margin of less than five per cent.

Thus, there is the likelihood that whoever wins the race by tomorrow would have done so by the narrowest of margins and, thereby, opening up the opportunity for the other side to dispute the results and, perhaps, even take the matter to court. Hopeful though many political analysts are at the moment, it seems that tomorrow will not see a final, neat, clean conclusion to what has been a messy race.

Then, there is the question of how the new President of Indonesia will be able to gain support within the Peoples Assembly, or DPR. At the moment, the parties that dominate DPR happen to be aligned with Prabowo’s Gerindra and Hatta’s PAN. The Gerindra-PAN-led alliance totally dominates DPR at the moment, and should Jokowi-Kalla manage to win, the next president of Indonesia will be faced with the challenge of having to push for laws and reforms against what may well be a hostile assembly.

But, the uncertainty does not stop there, for the Gerindra-PAN alliance may also face its own internal difficulties if some of the parties aligned with it now decide to jump ship and hop over to PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party — Struggle)-led alliance. Over the past week, voices of discontent have emerged among the ranks of Golkar, in particular (that is currently part of the Gerindra-PAN alliance), where members have called for a serious rethinking of their current position. Golkar has never been in opposition, and should it turn out that Jokowi-Kalla wins after all, some of the leaders of Golkar have called for the party to join the ruling and winning coalition.

All this is taking place amid a society that has grown bored and tired with sensational politics, and where everyone seeks a quick and neat resolution. What is worrisome, however, is that already there is talk of parties sending out thousands of members and supporters to “safeguard” (mengamankan) the election results and announcement of the new president tomorrow. When analysts note that this may well be Indonesia’s most serious challenge and test so far, they were not exaggerating. Indonesia’s fate may well be decided by tomorrow, and the rest of ASEAN will feel the impact as well.