After Indonesia was ruled for three years by the administration under the leadership of President Megawati Sukarnoputri (2001-2004), daughter of the late Soekarno, it was time for new parliamentary and presidential elections in Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy and the world's largest archipelago. However, both Megawati and her PDI-P party lost a big chunk of popular support ahead of the 2004 elections and therefore many believed she would have to exit the presidential palace after the elections. They were right. Over the next decade Indonesia would see a new president: former army general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Elections of 2004
In April 2004 approximately 84 percent of the Indonesian electorate (or around 113.5 million people) casted their vote for national parliament. Contrary to the election in 1999, this time Indonesians could vote for specific candidates of a party which brought forward a more personal element in the election.
In this election the two biggest parties of the previous election, to wit Golkar and PDI-P, lost their absolute majority. The PDI-P tumbled - in line with expectations - from 34 percent to 19 percent as the Indonesian people were dissatisfied with Megawati's performance as president. She seemed to lack vision and leadership, while corruption within her party was growing. Golkar, that had proved to be able to survive without the support of Suharto and the army, maintained its share of the votes (22 percent), although it had expected to do better.
But two newcomers, both not having participated in the 1999 elections, drew attention. The first one being the Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera, abbreviated PKS), a party which places great emphasis on the role of Islam in public life. It received seven percent of the votes in the 2004 election. The second one being the Democratic Party (Partai Demokrat, abbreviated PD). This party was the political vehicle of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (often referred to as SBY), the Coordinating Minister of Political and Security Affairs in Megawati's cabinet. Yudhoyono had hoped to become vice president in 2001 but lost out to Hamzah Haz.
Having high political aspirations of his own and the support of a small group of intellectuals around him (who set up the PD especially for him), Yudhoyono seemed to be a real presidential candidate for the 2004 elections. This bothered Megawati and caused a riff between the two. In early 2004 Yudhoyono left the Megawati cabinet, a decision which in fact made him even more popular. The PD received just over seven percent of the votes, enabling Yudhoyono to participate in the upcoming presidential election of 2004 (a party needed a minimum of five percent to be authorized to nominate a candidate for the presidency).
Legislative Election Indonesia 2004
In July 2004 the Indonesian people went to the ballot boxes for the presidential election. The winner of this election would require an absolute majority, therefore it seemed likely that a second round would be needed in which the top two of the first round compete each other.
Due to the fact that the president and vice president participate in this election as an inseparable couple, its composition is of strategic importance. Yudhoyono (PD), leading in the speculative polls, teamed up with Jusuf Kalla (a businessman from Eastern Indonesia). Megawati (PDI-P) paired with Hasyim Muzadi (chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama). Another pair that seemed to have a chance, although a small one, was Wiranto (a former army general, nominated by Golkar) who was joined by Sallahudin Wahid (vice chairman of the National Human Rights Commission).
With 33.5 percent of the votes, less than expected, Yudhoyono and Kalla became the winners of the first round. On second place, thus entitled to contest in the second round, was the Megawati-Muzadi pair who received 26.5 percent of the votes. As expected, the second round was easily won by Yudhoyono with a clear 60.5 percent majority and he was consequently inaugurated as Indonesia's new president on 20 October 2004.
Presidential Election Indonesia 2004:
The Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Government I (2004-2009)
The Democratic Party (PD) was primarily established to function as Yudhoyono's political vehicle on his path towards the Indonesian presidency. It propagated democracy, pluralism and the professionalization of the army (Yudhoyono himself being a retired army general). But politics was not something new to Yudhoyono who was appointed chief of staff for social-political affairs (an army department) in 1997. At this position he showed his reformist nature when he presented the 'New Paradigm' which called for an end to direct military involvement in politics (through a gradual withdrawal from the national and regional parliaments) and called for a split between the army and police (this split was finally decided upon during Habibie's presidency and became effective during the Wahid administration).
Later, Yudhoyono became minister of Mines and Energy during the Wahid presidency and coordinating minister for Legal, Political, and Security Affairs during Megawati's presidency. In both cases a fallout with the president led to his early departure. But he enjoyed popularity among the Indonesians due to his reformist ideas, his successful mediating in a number of regional violent conflicts, and his clean record of corruption (fighting corruption was in fact an important element in his campaigns prior to the elections).
From the start of his presidency expectations were very high. Yudhoyono, being regarded as a strong and balanced character, took office with ambitious reformist ideals such as the toppling of corruption and terrorism, the strengthening of democracy and human rights, and the fostering of accelerated economic growth. Surely his ambitions were - realistically speaking - too high as Indonesia is a difficult country to reform within a timespan of a few years. A slow and inefficient bureaucracy, opposing forces throughout society and widespread corruption (especially on the regional level) make it difficult to implement policies effectively. As promised during his campaign period, approximately half of Yudhoyono's cabinet ministers consisted of non-partisan professionals (technocrats), especially on positions concerning the economy, in order to encourage professionalization.
Yudhoyono's presidency is also characterized by disasters causing some people to label him the 'disaster president'. Most famous natural disaster is the horrific tsunami in Aceh which killed more than 200,000 people in Aceh in 2004. Other disasters were the earthquake in Bantul (Central Java) in 2006 killing 6,000 people, the Sidoarjo mud flow (which ruined hundreds of hectares in the province of East Java and caused the evacuation of thousands of people), multiple floods in Jakarta triggering the evacuation of about half a million people in 2007 and, lastly, the Merapi volcano eruptions in 2010 which killed 353 people and caused the evacuating of 350,000 people.
A good achievement of the Yudhoyono administration concerns the macroeconomic fundamentals: Indonesia's foreign debt declined impressively, foreign exchange reserves rose and annual GDP growth was solid. These strong fundamentals - supported by the 2000s commodities boom and rapidly rising purchasing power - were what made Indonesia successfully sail through the global crisis of 2008-2009.
Elections of 2009
The legislative election for the DPR (People’s Representative Council) and DPD (Regional Representative Council), held on 9 April 2009, proved a clear victory for Yudhoyono's PD party (20.8 percent), while Golkar came in second (14.4 percent) and the PDI-P third (14.0 percent). Factors that contributed to this victory of the PD were massive cash programs to support the poor and declining food and fuel prices which contributed to the notion that the national economy was performing well. The public also considered Yudhoyono to be sincere in toppling corruption; the PD was known as the least corrupted political party.
A party (or a coalition of parties) winning more than 112 seats (twenty percent) in the 560-member DPR or winning at least 25 percent of the national vote was allowed to nominate a presidential candidate. This put Yudhoyono in a strong position for the upcoming presidential election. Some controversy arose regarding the new parliamentary threshold that stipulated only parties receiving more than 2.5 percent of the popular vote would be seated in the DPR. This was a big disadvantage for the smaller parties.
An interesting outcome in this election was an increasing preference for secular-nationalist parties over Islamic or Islamist parties. The total of Islamic parties combined received 27.8 percent of the votes only, indicating a continuing declining trend compared to previous elections (38.1 percent in 2004).
Legislative Election Indonesia 2009:
There were three pairs that ran for presidency and vice presidency in the presidential election of 2009. First of all acting president Yudhoyono whose PD party had won the parliamentary election and who was entitled for one more term as president. He chose Boediono as his running mate for the vice presidency. Boediono, an economist, was not affiliated to any political party and had been Governor of Bank Indonesia (the central bank) and coordinating minister for Economic Affairs during Yudhoyono's first cabinet.
The second pair that ran for office consisted of Golkar's Jusuf Kalla (Yudhoyono's former vice president) who partnered with former army general Wiranto (who had been accused of human rights abuses in East Timor). And lastly, Megawati joined the race again. This time she chose Prabowo Subianto as her running mate. Prabowo, also a former army general was son-in-law to Suharto and is believed to have been responsible for violence against anti-Suharto intellectuals and students, against the ethnic Chinese community in Jakarta (during the riots in 1998) and is also linked to human rights abuses in East Timor.
Without having to need a second round this time, Yudhoyono and Boediono won the presidential election with an absolute majority (60.8 percent). The international community regarded this victory an important step to maintain political stability in Indonesia. The Megawati-Prabowo pair received 26.8 percent of the votes, while Kalla-Wiranto came in third with 12.1 percent.
Presidential Election Indonesia 2009:
The Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Government II (2009-2014)
On 22 October 2009 the inauguration of the Second United Indonesia Cabinet took place. This cabinet was a coalition between the PD, Golkar and the four Islamic parties PKS, PAN, PKB and PPP. Besides appointing ministers from all these six coalitions partners, president Yudhoyono also placed quite some professionals (non-partisan figures) on key ministry posts such as the ministries of Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Trade, National Education and Health. Only two former army generals were appointed minister in the cabinet.
But despite a strong macroeconomic performance, popular support for Yudhoyono started to erode. Yudhoyono did not meet expectations regarding the toppling of corruption, which had been an important campaign slogan of his party. High profile corruption cases involving government staff made headlines on a regular basis. More severely, the PD itself became deeply involved in corruption scandals when several of its members, including party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin, were accused and trialled for the 2011 Southeast Asian Games graft case in which - allegedly - bribes were paid in connection to the construction of the athletes’ village.
Then, the PD Chairman Anas Urbaningrum was caught and sentenced to eight years in prison for taking a bribe in relation with the construction of the Hambalang sports complex in West Java. These scandals - closer and closer around Yudhoyono - severely harmed both Yudhoyono's and his party's popularity.
Also three ministers in Yudhoyono's administration were arrested and sentenced to imprisonment. These were Andi Mallarangeng (minister for sports and youth), Jero Wacik (minister for energy and mineral resources) and Suryadharma Ali (minister for religious affairs). Moreover, it is estimated that some 300 regional government officials were investigated for corrupt behavior during Yudhoyono's second term, indicating the widespread presence of corruption in government circles and Yudhoyono's failure to combat corruption, collusion and nepotism.
According to the general public opinion the emergence of these graft cases within the PD was a sign of Yudhoyono's weak leadership. Also on other subjects Yudhoyono was regarded to act weakish. Many reform-minded Indonesians were disappointed when he did not back highly respected reformist Finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati when she - together with vice president Boediono - were criticized for mishandling a bank bailout case in 2008. Sri Mulyani moved to the World Bank Group where she started working as a managing director. Most people assume, however, that her early departure was connected to pressures from certain political forces with major business interests as her reform policies had led to conflicts with these interests.
Another weakness in Yudhoyono's leadership concerns his slow and unconvincing condemnation of violent attacks on minority religions, such as the Ahmadiyya killings in February 2011 when an Islamist mob killed members of the small local Ahmadiyya Islamic sect in the province of Banten.
While the start was promising, Yudhoyono's decade-long rule is now regarded as a period of missed opportunities. Yudhoyono enjoyed big support in the parliament (in his second term) but failed to push for much-needed structural reforms (for example the scrapping of fuel subsidies). On the one hand, he is criticized for being indecisive and trying too much to befriend all people and streams in society but on the other hand his style managed to enhance Indonesia's political and economic stability and therefore laid down a solid foundation for others to build on.
Poll Indonesia Investments:
Who would you vote for in Indonesia's 2019 presidential election?
Voting possible: -
- Joko Widodo (57.9%)
- Prabowo Subianto (32.1%)
- No opinion (5.6%)
- Someone else (4.4%)
Total amount of votes: 16134