Who's who in the Indonesian elections

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Who's who in the Indonesian elections

By Max Lane

The official campaign period for the June general elections in Indonesia begins on May 19. However, the struggle for the domination of the next parliament, the composition of the next government and the position of the next president began as soon as the dictator Suharto was forced to resign on May 21, 1998.

Following the resignation of Suharto, and under pressure from all the anti-Suharto sections of society, the current parliament withdrew laws restricting the number of political parties to three. Eventually 48 parties out of more than 150 were registered.

There are four general streams that can be usefully identified among these 48 parties. This article looks at the two main streams of conservative parties. A future article will look at the liberal democratic parties and the revolutionary democratic forces.

New Order-linked parties

Parties that defend the order established immediately after Suharto's resignation are often referred to as the "status quo" parties. They include Golkar, the current ruling party; the Star and Crescent Party, a rightist party led by Suharto's former speech writer; and the regime-influenced Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) that expelled Megawati Sukarnoputri in 1996.

Several small, new parties are also rumoured to be linked to Suharto or Golkar forces.

For the moment, all these parties support the current government and favour a new government that has Golkar and the armed forces (ABRI) at the core of some kind of coalition.

The leaders of these parties are drawn from Golkar functionaries from the Suharto period, from ABRI or from the civil service, especially from among those with some involvement in urban Muslim social organisations. There is no authoritative leadership for this group as a whole, nor inside Golkar.

The credibility of these forces, associated as they are with the Suharto era, is very weak. Much of the internal politicking inside Golkar and inside this stream revolves around efforts to rehabilitate Golkar's image.

Golkar has two high-profile national leaders, aside from Habibie: Akbar Tanjung is the chairperson of Golkar and state secretary in Habibie's cabinet (temporarily resigned so he can legally participate in the election campaign). Marzuki Darusman is chair of the Golkar faction in the current parliament.

Darusman, a very moderate critic of some aspects of Suharto's policies, first came to prominence in the early 1990s, when there was a push within the ruling circles for a liberalisation of the press and political discussion. Suharto later dumped him from the parliament and shunted him off as a member of the National Human Rights Commission.

All of these forces need to defend most of the structures and even the personnel of the Suharto New Order. The most liberal of them, Darusman, recently defended going softly in investigating and exposing the role of military officers involved in human rights abuses:

"It could end up with the armed forces being immediately pushed out of politics. That's something that would be unrealistic ... You can't visualise the armed forces voluntarily giving up its vested position. It has invested too much in politics. It's more than just a normal army."

Golkar's attachment to the Suharto period is reflected in its inability to choose a presidential candidate. Habibie's close connections with Suharto and his refusal to take any action against Suharto on corruption charges have made Golkar hesitant about nominating him.

Furthermore, there has been pressure on Golkar to develop independence from Suharto's personal directions. In this process, factionalism has thrived as different cliques attempt to establish their dominance.

There are also groups that may be classified as maverick pro-New Order parties. The Justice and Nationalism Party, led by Suharto's former defence minister, Edi Sudrajat, promotes the former armed forces chief, Try Sutrisno, as a presidential candidate. The People's Sovereignty Party is linked to Habibie's populist minister for cooperatives, Adi Sasono.

These parties represent attempts to assert their independence by cliques in the current ruling circles who have a small social base separate from the Golkar bureaucracy. Edi Sudrajat has links into the military. Adi Sasono has links into the Muslim small business community.

The old 'loyal opposition'

When Suharto led the repression against the working class, peasantry and the left in 1965, he was supported by the main political parties representing the interests of the merchant class and large landowners.

These parties were the Nahdatul Ulama (NU), a conservative, rural-based Islamic party under the control of large landowning families; the Masyumi, an urban Muslim party dominated by merchants and small capitalists banned by the previous left-leaning Sukarno government but still able to organise, especially through its anticommunist student organisation; and the right wing of the Indonesian National Party (PNI), dominated by bureaucrats and landowners. The PNI also had a majority left wing, but these people, including the PNI secretary general, were murdered or purged in late 1965.

The NU, Masyumi and PNI right wing provided the civilian political cover and often thugs to help ABRI with its slaughter of a million worker and peasant activists in 1965-66.

The first Suharto government was a coalition of ABRI, Golkar, NU, Masyumi and PNI. But very quickly Suharto excluded the non-Golkar parties.

By the late 1970s, the NU and Masyumi had been forced to merge with other small Islamic parties in the United Development Party (PPP), and the PNI was forced to merge with small right-wing Christian and other parties in the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). The PPP and PDI were placed under the informal control of the regime, through the intervention of Suharto's special operations intelligence groups.

For more than 20 years, the PPP and PDI were rubber stamps with no real independence or political life.

In the late 1980s, under the leadership of Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), the Nahdatul Ulama withdrew from the PPP, giving the excuse that it wanted to concentrate on social and welfare activities. The withdrawal gave the NU greater room to move.

During the late 1980s also, a movement developed inside the PDI based on resentment among provincial business people and small capitalists towards Suharto, Golkar and big Jakarta crony capital. Megawati Sukarnoputri emerged as spokesperson for this trend.

Both developments occurred as popular discontent with the Suharto regime was increasing because of greater economic hardship for the people and the contrast with the massive corruption and wealth of the Suharto cronies. Thus Gus Dur and Megawati Sukarnoputri emerged as prominent mainstream moderate critics of Suharto. In particular, Megawati became a symbol of mass discontent during 1996-7, when Suharto tried to drive her from politics.

In the current election campaign, the NU is campaigning through the Indonesian Awakening Party (PKB). Reflecting the factional situation inside the NU, there are two other NU-related parties, but the PKB is dominant.

The old PNI, in combination with some small Christian parties, is campaigning as PDI-Struggle, under the leadership of Megawati Sukarnoputri. There are several other smaller parties linked to the old PNI.

Since the 1930s, the right wings of the PNI and the NU have often worked closely together, including in helping ABRI to suppress the left in 1965.

Both the PKB and PDI-Struggle are organising the traditional constituencies of the NU and the right-wing PNI. The traditional NU constituency is in the rural areas of Central and East Java and other conservative rural Muslim regions. The leaders of the NU are drawn from small and medium landowners and small and medium rural capitalists who use their authority to win, cajole, intimidate or buy support from the poor peasantry and landless peasants.

The traditional constituency of the PNI is also in the rural areas of Central and East Java as well as Bali, eastern Indonesia and parts of Sumatra. The functionaries of the PNI are drawn from small and medium landowners, small and medium rural capitalists and the local civil service. They use their influence to draw in the rural and small town poor as well as secular poor people in the bg cities like Jakarta and Surabaya.

The PNI is a secular party and draws support from the large section of the population who do not identify with the more pious version of Islam.

The PKB and the PDI-Struggle are essentially engaged in a struggle to re-establish a government with the same composition as Suharto's first government. They want to end their exclusion from political rule.

Their stands on major issues are not greatly different from Golkar or even ABRI. Both parties support free market capitalism, the full International Monetary Fund economic restructuring program and a major role in politics for ABRI.

National Mandate Party

After the NU left the PPP, the dominant forces in the PPP were associated with the urban, so-called modernist Islamic circles. In the cities and in Sumatra, these circles have been traditionally dominated by a big layer of batik and textile merchants and have drawn support from the pious Muslim sections of the urban poor, including petty traders.

However, during the period of rapid economic change under Suharto, the old textile merchant class has evolved into a much more diverse middle class. Many sons and daughters of the Muslim trading class have become professionals, military officers, teachers, academics, civil servants and small and medium capitalists outside the textile sector. Many have become religious teachers and mosque officials. This Muslim middle class has become both more secular and more ideologically diverse.

In the election, there are more parties trying to represent this constituency than any other so-called traditional constituency. They range from the rightist Star and Crescent Party and the PPP, through to the Justice Party, which is a small but militant party, with a strong base among professionals, campaigning for some democratic reforms under the Islamic banner.

The party that has attracted the biggest grouping of intellectuals, political activists and religious figures from this milieu is the National Mandate Party (PAN), headed by Amien Rais. PAN is not an explicitly Islamic party and has also drawn in high-profile community figures from among Christians.

PAN's program emphasises a gradual transition to "parliamentary democracy", reflecting the desire among the new middle class for both less arbitrary political rule and political and economic stability. PAN expresses the same support for free market economics and the IMF and the role of ABRI as the PKB and PDI-Struggle, but has a more developed capacity to produce policy that reflects the diverse interests of the middle class.

While drawing its leadership and apparatus from the new middle class, PAN is pushed to rely on the traditional constituencies of the urban pious Muslim communities. The fact that these communities are now more diverse makes them a less reliable base.

In this sense, PAN is a party in search of a base. One result is a high degree of inconsistency in the statements of its leaders as they roam the ideological landscape looking for support. Amien Rais, for example, has expressed a willingness to form a coalition with PDI-Struggle as well as with Golkar.