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The Jakarta Post
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Political parties: In desperate need of leadership and strategy

  • Novianta LT Hutagalung and Zamsu Bahar Arifin

Jakarta | Tue, February 19 2013 | 10:33 am

The transformation of this nation as a whole cannot be separated from the governance of political parties. It is no secret that in Indonesia, proximity to those who are in power is the predominant factor affecting the success of a business or the shape and implementation of legal, social and economic policies.

Nepotism, though considered having negative implications, actually has sociocultural roots we call gotong royong (communality or togetherness). Nepotism has been widely regarded as a catalyst for insurmountable corruption in Indonesia.

Rather than trying to recognize, appreciate and then work out the existence of the communality that shapes the connections between politics, society and the economy, we tend to fight nepotism at the very end of the chain of events, when everything else has been affected and therefore ruined.

Hence, it comes as no surprise for us to see the grueling fact that so many dirty politicians or power brokers in this country have deep connections with their socioeconomic surroundings that have been manifested as hidden, artificial and manipulative agendas for their mere short-term personal gain and group interest.

Fighting such nepotism at the end of the chain is relevant but costly in financial and sociocultural terms. It has been a public secret that many good people actually join political parties for a good reason — to change and transform the country — but end up mired in corruption and bribery. Politics and political parties in Indonesia are part of an entity with enormous hunger for huge power, yet lack a fundamental purpose.

As a consequence, such accumulations of power are easily directed at the search for privilege by people who are in the circle of power, no matter how destructive the effort is. To make things worse, many political parties are run without a clearly articulated sense of purpose, mission, vision, values or strategy.

In such a manner, power struggles have become the obvious nature and characteristic of politics. Power struggles are not marked by competing ideological platforms, leadership, strategies and programs.

In the absence of fundamental values and leadership, power that is sought after by political parties will be no more and no less than mere bubbled power. It will make no difference to the public. That kind of power can be easily floated by unauthentic image building programs and money politics and can also nose dive significantly when something wrong happens.

When power is accumulated without concern other than self or group interests, then power really tends to corrupt. Therefore, power, politics and political parties need to be based on a solid and strong foundation.

Political parties need to revamp their fundamental strategies in a way that can give deeper substance to their power seeking and operational activities. With clearly articulated and shared purposes, people within and outside the party will have a deeper understanding the meaning and expected impact of its existence on society.

With leadership, the people will have understanding of how to undertake a leadership role and initiatives to make an impactful difference. A strategy will help them define their priority, goals, relevant performance indicators, strategic planning as well as programs in a systemic way.

Hence, political parties can truly act, compete, empower and position themselves as transformational agents that can be trusted by the people. Political parties will become “learning organizations” that rigorously educate and build their members before launching authentic and accountable campaigns and going to the House of Representatives.

Sustainability and public accountability is at the heart of the party governance. It will be less likely that internal power struggles — such as what happened to the Democratic Party when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono took over the party’s leadership role, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) with its leadership crisis or the National Democrat Party (NasDem) when Hary Tanoesoedibjo left — will re-occur in such magnitude.

On the contrary, without a clear self-concept, sense of purpose, leadership and management system in place, the level of political party engagement in Indonesia will only be maintained at artificial level with a high dependency on strong figures, cronyism and unauthentic image building.

In as much as this occurs, politics that are conducted by political parties in this country will become mere politicking that fundamentally shapes a vicious cycle of power abuse rather than creating a circle of virtue.

The writers are public management and leadership consultants.


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