Yesterday Lembaga Survei Indonesia (LSI), a leading Indonesian public opinion research institute, published the result of a survey that indicated Megawati Soekarnoputri is leading the poll to become the country's next president in 2014. In the survey she is closely followed by Aburizal Bakrie and Prabowo Subianto. This preliminary result can be regarded negative as these names are 'products' of the old regime and thus will not support further democratization.
Although on paper Indonesia is a democracy, in reality it is far from functioning as a true democracy. Most political leaders do not pass through the ranks of political institutions based on their political skills and intellectual capabilities (a process which can take decades), but instead rise through the ranks by using their money and network. Not a negligible part of the members of the House of Representatives (DPR) are in fact businessmen or artists (movie stars, comedians or singers) who suddenly decide to go into politics. Not surprisingly, the DPR is one of the country's most corrupt institutions. This is a situation which makes it very difficult for a 'professional' politician to reach high political ranks.
According to the survey, Indonesians prefer the following political figures to become president in 2014 (current president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will not participate in the elections as the Constitution limits the presidency to two terms of five years).
|• Megawati Soekarnoputri||PDI-P||20.7%|
|• Aburizal Bakrie||Golkar||20.3%|
|• Prabowo Subianto||Gerindra||19.2%|
Megawati Soekarnoputri - daughter of national hero and Indonesia's first president Sukarno - has been leading the PDI-P party since the 1990s. This party became increasingly critical to Suharto's position and was regarded as an alternative to the repressive regime. Megawati somewhat symbolized an independence from Suharto as her father had been in the past in relation to the Dutch colony. However, Megawati is not the product of a democratic system. In fact, the contrary. She did not pass through the political ranks based on her intelligence and leadership abilities, but rather on her status as being Sukarno's daughter. That is what made her an influential force on the nation's political landscape. Megawati was president from 2001 to 2004, but her presidency was more a status quo rather than continued political reformation towards becoming a full democracy. If she would be elected again there is no reason to think that the country will experience much needed further reform.
Aburizal Bakrie, chairman of the Golkar, is one of the richest Indonesian businessmen. His father laid the foundation of a large conglomerate that prospered during the Suharto era. Businessmen engaged in politics is a common thing in Indonesia where business and politics usually go hand in hand as you need money to gain political support and need political support to expand a business efficiently. Bakrie, however, has a rather poor reputation (both domestically and internationally) as his companies have been linked to various scandals and corruption cases. The reason why he is high on the LSI poll is probably because his Golkar party enjoys large popular support among the people. Despite knowing that Bakrie's popularity is low, Golkar still nominated him (albeit some internal discussion) to run for the presidency. It is an odd choice, and must have been influenced by money-politics.
Both Prabowo Subianto (former son-in-law of Suharto) and Wiranto also have poor reputations, in particular internationally as both have been accused of human rights violations during their careers in the army. Prabowo is remarkably popular among Indonesians as he is regarded as being a strong character and many Indonesians feel that the country is currently lacking such a leader. Prabowo's problem, however, is that his party lacks popularity. He therefore needs support from other parties in order to be nominated for presidential candidate.
In sum, it is disappointing that 15 years after the road to democracy opened, Indonesia now presents names of presidential candidates that all remind us of the negative aspects of Indonesia's political and economic domain, such as corruption, nepotism, and human rights violations. If Indonesia will ever succeed in becoming a true democracy, it will need a long journey to accomplish it.