Analysis: The business of politics today
Paper Edition | Page: 14
The two are inextricably linked. In a democracy, even more so. In tomorrow’s Indonesia, politics looks like it is going to be run by business. Is that a good thing?
Two years away from the next elections, the stage looks set already. Prabowo Subianto and Aburizal Bakrie are running neck and neck now as contenders vying for top spot in the polls. Both are businessmen turned politicians. Among other likely participants in the presidential race,
Sultan Hamengkubuwono is trailing at No. 3. Nuanced with Javanese grace, his Golkar party supporters recently expressed their desire to have him on the ticket as the next vice president. That would give Sumatra-born Aburizal all the goodwill that the sultan enjoys in Java. The potential combination of these two running mates is now a major challenge for every other hopeful.
Far behind at No. 4 with 8 percent of voting intentions but climbing steadily is another businessman, Dahlan Iskan. A successful and high-profile minister today, he is a likely candidate for Democratic Party to pin their hopes on. Even if he continues his current winning streak, he would need a strong partner as a vice presidential nominee to boost his chances. Such a candidate isn’t visible today. But if President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono forges a strategic alliance between his Democratic Party and Prabowo Subianto’s Gerindra party, the race is on. Full on. The president still enjoys a great deal of goodwill, his battered party is still the most popular. If he blesses a Prabowo-Dahlan pairing, they would give an Aburizal-Hamengkubuwono combination a run for their money. In both instances, the two possible pairs of candidates complement each other. The tycoon with his useful media assets gains what he needs most, the goodwill enjoyed in Java by its own living legend, the sultan. If the businessman wears his ever-popular military hat, the media-owning minister blessed by the president instantly becomes the
Two years is a very long time in politics but on the Indonesian political landscape, a higher-voltage race to the finish line is difficult to imagine. Here’s why. It is unlikely that businessman Taufik Kemas or her ex-president wife Megawati Soekarnoputri will lead their PDI-P party into a presidential race. They are more likely to support a pair of their choice when formal announcements are made. Businessman turned politician and currently
Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa with 6 percent of voting intentions is also unlikely to take his PAN party head-on against the goliaths. Finally, the newly formed NasDem party’s Suryo Paloh, another businessman and media owner is also seeing his electoral fortunes dwindle, down to 2 percent in May. That is the picture today. Anything is possible in politics and business, but at this juncture, it is difficult to visualize a more competitive scenario than the possible Prabowo-Dahlan versus Aburizal-Hamengkubuwono race. Whichever course it runs finally, there will be businessmen leading the way.
Business can be a force for good. Managerial skills used for public service augur well. But the overwhelming evidence before us is difficult to ignore. Corruption is endemic. From both social and political perspectives, it is issue No.1 for the people of Indonesia. The voters get very little respect. It is as if they are mere puppets, born to do the bidding of the puppeteers.
Take the business of political opinion polls. In the month of June alone, three different polls came out with three very different sets of results. Suffice to say they can’t all be right. In any mature democracy, such an outcome is unheard of: three or four pollsters usually come out with results that are in the same ballpark, more or less. In opinion polling, getting the questions and the interviews right is an art. Getting the sample design right and recognizing the size of the voting population in each area is a science. Putting in a laundry list of unlikely candidates in the questionnaire will cause fragmentation, producing results that distort the reality. Giving equal weight to 60 interviews conducted in sparsely populated
Maluku and densely populated Jakarta would defy logic and bend the truth. In a country that still has more than half its voters living in rural homes, urban-only interviews will not reflect the real picture. If all the interviews in a big city are conducted only in affluent neighborhoods, a bias will emerge. These are just some of the basic pitfalls that must always be avoided.
By accident or by design, Indonesia’s voters are getting polling results that confuse them or are ignored. To state the obvious, not all the polls are wrong. The problem is too many are, too often. Good or bad, right or wrong, the data gets published verbatim. That’s because journalists are reporting what they are being given, without questioning what they are fed in a press conference. For everyone concerned, politics is risky
Roy Morgan Research has been commissioned by the Asia Pacific Association of Political Consultants to conduct a monthly monitor of voting intentions. Presently, interviews are conducted in 17 provinces, home to 87 percent of the population.
The writer can be contacted at Debnath.Guharoy@roymorgan.com