RI’s messy democracy is normal: Expert
It is not unusual for young democracies to experience times of political, social and economic turbulence. Indonesia, which entered its own era of democracy 14 years ago, is no exception to that.
Speaking in a discussion held by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta on Tuesday, Terry H. Anderson, a history professor at the Texas A&M University in the US, said that Indonesia’s democracy might seem messy to its citizens at the moment.
After living for years under the former president Soeharto’s rule, when everything had appeared to be in order, now Indonesians faced a whole new atmosphere. “But the messiness is normal. We experienced the same thing when we first built the US,” he said.
Anderson gave an example of how the US saw a split in its political scene between the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party in late 1790s.
He said that nobody could have predicted the direction the US was heading in at the time because both parties had different ideas on how to run the country.
He added that the present-day situation in Indonesia might drive some people to question the quality of the reformation era, which started 1998 and was marked by the fall of Soeharto authoritarian regime.
In a poll conducted by Kompas newspaper last month, 54 percent of those surveyed felt that the state of the country’s politics was as bad as or worse than it was before 1998.
“This may look as if the people are longing for the old days or yearning for Soeharto, but what they’re actually longing for is stability and improvements,” Anderson told The Jakarta Post.
According to him, the Indonesian government’s lack of focus and lack of strong leadership had caused many setbacks and the country needed to elect a leader who could encourage people to get things done to realize stability.
He said that the future president did not necessarily have to be a person with a military background, despite some people’s preference for a president who was decisive, a character usually attributed to figures with military backgrounds.
Indonesia’s 2014 presidential race will likely see Wiranto and Prabowo, two Indonesian Military (TNI) generals, joining the race again.
Both Wiranto and Prabowo were related to the events in 1998, but their past alleged involvement in several human rights violations has not stopped them from participating in the upcoming election.
Recent surveys show Prabowo, founder of the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party and former chief of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), has received a high approval rating from voters, which has cemented his reputation as one of the strongest contenders in the race.
On Wiranto and Prabowo, Anderson said “they are hoping that people will forget what happened in the past.” (tas)