Attention is increasingly focusing toward 2014, when Indonesia conducts elections for a new president. The run-up period to the elections is already under way, and there is heightened interest by Indonesians, as well as by Americans who follow Indonesia, in the contending parties and their positions. Our Open Forum series provides a deeper understanding of Indonesian political and economic developments by welcoming leaders of Indonesia’s political parties, and giving us direct access to their views and perceptions.
On December 7, 2011, USINDO hosted a Special Open Forum with Golkar Chairman, Aburizal Bakrie. Widely viewed as the leading candidate from Golkar to run in the 2014 presidential election, Mr. Bakrie is also the Deputy Chairman of the governing party coalition headed by President SBY.
Summary: Mr. Bakrie presented the audience with Golkar’s views onIndonesia’s political and economic accomplishments and challenges, the role of Golkar inIndonesia’s democratic and economic development, and the nature of the political coalition supporting the next government.
Among the biggest gains Indonesia has made so far, according to Mr. Bakrie, is the growing consensus among Indonesian people to uphold freedom, democracy, open and accountable government, as well as protection of basic rights, as parts of Indonesia’s present grand narrative. Indonesia’s other accomplishments include the upholding of religious tolerance and moderation, the manifestation of Islam compatibility with democracy and modernization, as well as the progressive growth of the regions, which have led to the country’s vibrant economy.
Mr. Bakrie argued, however, that Indonesian economy has not reached its full potential due to several existing structural problems. Chief among others isIndonesia’s inadequate infrastructure. Other pressing issues are related to the insufficient rule of law and the institutions of justice, the excessive fragmentation in the parliament, and the ongoing struggle to promote peace and social welfare development in Papua.
With regard toIndonesia’s democratic transition, Mr. Bakrie stated that Golkar has quickly responded by repositioning and reforming itself, embracing the spirit of democracy while maintaining its identity. Golkar strives to continue maintaining its ability to deliver concrete measures in economic development.
Although it came second in the 2009 election, Golkar is still the political party with the most extensive regional networks. More than 50 percent of today’s regional leaders are members or candidates supported by Golkar. Mr. Bakrie expects Golkar to win around 30 to 35 percent of the national vote in 2014. Golkar is aiming both at the majority coalition leadership and the presidency. Mr. Bakrie’s decision whether to run for the presidency in 2014 has not yet been made.
[Please click here for a copy of the full text of his speech.]
Q and A’s: The following is a summary of the Q and A session.
Q: You seem to know the problems and ready to run. So, are you going to run?
As I said, I still have to ask my wife and family first.
Q: Are there specific or emerging political parties that you would like to work with?
The present coalition is very difficult because it started after the election. It is each party’s coalition with the president and the government. I want to form a coalition before the election. So it should be permanent. I would like to see each decision taken by the coalition board. One thing is very important – the coalition should not lessen or reduce the right of the parliament. We can persuade, but not undermine their rights. In the business world, this is what we do. We are in the business of convincing people. So I believe I can do it.
Q: How serious is the corruption problem in Indonesia? What are you going to do about corruption in Indonesia if you decide to run? In the Soeharto time, corruption was centralized, for example within the president family. Now it seems to be decentralized. The governors are afraid to make a decision because they are afraid to be suspected of corruption.
Governors are the extension of the central government. So the government should be decisive. The president should be able to control and understand the situation, and make the decision quickly. I was a former Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs and then for Social Welfare, so I know how it works and the problems in the regions. They need decision and coordination power from the (central) government. It is not easy but it could be done.
Q: Many friends of Indonesia believe that the justice system needs to be strengthened. Do you accept this proposition, and how to accomplish that?
Yes, I agree. The law is there, but the institutions are not quite there. The problem is in the implementation. The law should not be construed by politics. The law has to work for everybody. I agree that it has to be reformed. But the most important thing is that politics should not control the law.
Q: The relations with China are a major concern to ASEAN, particularly on the issues related to the South China Sea. There is a potential role for Indonesia. What is your view on this issue? How can Indonesia deal with the complexity?
I believe it should be done through dialogue. Indonesia should work together with China and other nations. Indonesia is an active and independent country; we do not want to see one country to dominate the South China Sea.
Q: It is a challenge for DPR to pass laws with 9 parties involved. With the new electoral law, Golkar, PDIP, and PD are pushing for 5 percent threshold. How do you work with the other two parties to persuade the smaller parties?
It should be decided through voting. Golkar and PDIP are pushing for 5 percent, PD for 4 percent, and the other parties for 3 percent. It will be either 4 or 5 percent. We are not going to compromise to 3 percent.
Q: Indonesia has a successful ASEAN leadership. In 2013, Indonesia will be the chair of APEC. Based on your experience, what is Indonesia’s priority for APEC?
Economics and the economy should be the priority. Certain things may influence the economy, but our priority should focus on the economy. Indonesia is ready whoever the next president will be. But it should take care of the welfare of its people first.