28 September 2004

changing the guard in Jakarta

Today is the last day that the MPR, Indonesia's supreme legislative body, includes police and army delegates. In future the MPR will consist only of elected members of the two legislative chambers, the DPR and the DPD. The departure of the military is part of the deal struck in 1999 when reformasi reigned supreme. The shift from indirect election through the MPR to a popular vote for president was agreed at the same time.

In another mark of how the presidential result is changing the political landscape, MPR speaker Amien Rais has announced he is leaving politics to return to university teaching.

Rais brokered the deal, which ultimately proved disastrous, to pass over Megawati, despite her lead in the popular vote, in favour of Abdulrahman Wahid in 1999. 18 months later Rais changed sides and organised the impeachment and removal of Wahid in favour of Megawati. Earlier this year, Rais' party, PAN, scored a much smaller share of the Muslim vote in the legislative election than Wahid's PKB. Rais went on to lose the first round of the presidential election badly. He ended this record of triumph by helping arrange the Nationhood Coalition to support Megawati in her spectacularly unsuccessful attempt at the second round of the election.

The Nationhood Coalition, essentially an anyone-but-Yudhoyono movement, has more than 300 deputies out of 550 but its grip on its own deputies is tenuous at best. Yudhoyono's allies in parliament number 100. Megawati' PDI-P is a shambles after the presidential defeat, as is Golkar.

The next political figure to depart the scene will probably be Akbar Tanjung, the DPR speaker. Tanjung ran for the Golkar presidential nomination, only to be defeated by Wiranto, who then ran a distant third to Yudhoyono and Megawati. Yudhoyono's vice-president, Jusuf Kalla is expected to defeat Tanjung for the Golkar leadership in December.

At that point Yudhoyono will acquire a legislative majority in addition to his spectacular 61% victory in the presidential election. The old politics, inherited from Suharto's New Order regime, by which members of the Jakarta political elite horse-traded power among themselves without a lot of regrd for their supporters, is dead. When Suharto fell in 1998, his methods of political management survived pretty much unscathed among the new reformasi leaders. You can see that in the record of ducking and weaving in the careers of figures like Rais and Tanjung. You can also see Suharto's heriage their loss of any ability to actually mobilise their followers. A majority of Golkar's members and supporters appear to have voted for Yudhoyono.

The next question is what will Yudhoyono do about the economic, legal and institutional reforms Indonesia so badly needs.

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