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the October 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No.
Stability, Economy, and Constitutional Reform
Mega, Put the
"I" in Innovation
Denny JA, Kompas (independent),
Jakarta, Indonesia, July 24, 2001.
The author is executive director of Jayabaya University in Jakarta.
The way former President Abdurrahman Wahid [Gus Dur]
obtained his presidential seat is different from the way President
Megawati Sukarnoputri did. Gus Dur became president after all major
political parties had given him their full support. Megawati, however,
was only half supported by the political parties. For example, the
Islamic Awakening Party, which once supported her as a presidential
candidate, now firmly opposes her. Gus Dur was toppled in the middle
of his term of office, which leaves many unresolved problems for the
new government. We can only hope that Megawati will not be forced
to leave her presidential seat as Gus Dur was.
This hope can come true only if Megawati turns out to be a president
with true innovation. An innovator is intent upon reforms that are
compliant with the demands of the society, and also has the social
skills and leadership necessary to unite different warring political
groups in order to support her reforms. Without strong leadership,
reforms cannot come to fruition, but exist only as ideals. Similarly,
if she lacks the desire to make true reforms, Megawatis leadership
will return this nation to the past. Therefore, she can be successful
as an innovator only if she is both reform-minded and able to lead.
First and foremost, Megawati must call on powerful leaders to achieve
three goals that are motivated by the reform spirit. If she can achieve
this, she can set a strong foundation for democracy in Indonesia.
First of all, Megawati and other leaders must establish a stable government
until at least the year 2004. The government must avoid being disturbed
by a constantly changing cabinet or parliament. Stable government
is the main requirement for liberating a nation in crisis. No matter
how well a new president performs, the programs will not work if the
government is unstable.
In order to establish stability, Megawati must take two simultaneous
moves. First, she must reconcile the powerful leaders of the former
government with one another. In return, she will receive their support,
and they will not use their influence to topple her. Megawati must
also approach the prominent figures of Gus Durs government,
including Gus Dur himself, the high-ranking military officials and
businessmen from B.J. HabibiesIndonesias third presidentadministration,
as well as those from Suhartos government. She must compensate
them according to their positions. For instance, an honorable position
should be granted to Gus Dur, which he would probably accept.
Second, Megawati should strike a deal with other major political parties
in parliament. She should give a certain number of ministerial seats
to Poros Tengah [Axis Force, an informal coalition of Islamic parties],
Golkar [Suhartos party], and Islamic Awakening Party [Wahids
party] proportionate to the number of seats each holds in the cabinet.
If a partys minister is to be replaced for some reason, the
party chairman should select a candidate from his own party.
For the second goal, Megawati should call all chairmen of political
parties in parliament to concentrate on one or two major programs
only. One of the major programs is economic recovery. Without economic
recovery, the transition to democracy will come to a deadlock. Megawati
should ensure that the post for high-ranking officials in the ministry
of economy is not given to members of the political parties. For example,
Megawati should not let members of her own party, the Indonesian Democratic
Party, fill positions in the ministry of economy. Important positions
in the economy-related ministries should be given to professionals.
Suharto entrusted the countrys economic issues to economists
from the University of California, Berkeley; they became known as
the Berkeley Mafia. Megawati too can adopt this strategy
by creating her own mafia and allowing the new technocrats
to handle the economy.
From now until 2004 will be the crucial transitional period. During
this time, the ministry of economy will be a fertile field for tricky
deeds like collusion, corruption, and nepotism if the post is given
to political parties fellows. A conflict of interest could easily
occur. Indonesia is currently plagued by an economic malaise, which
is affecting the ability of political parties to finance their activities.
It is assumed that a minister of economic affairs who is affiliated
with a political party would be asked or even forced by his party
to provide illegal funds for the partys 2004 election campaign.
This practice used to be customary in Suhartos New Order. Only
if political parties are completely separated from the ministry of
economy can rivalrous conflicts of interest be avoided.
The third and final goal is for Megawati to reform the rules in the
political system. Political competition can easily turn into extended
conflict if no coherent rules are in place. The most important of
these rules is the constitution. A weak constitution would turn the
political system into a minefield; for instance, the ambiguity between
the powers of the president and the parliamentary system in our present
constitution have produced countless problems.
Megawati must call upon political party chairmen to form an independent
commission for this task. Though the Peoples Consultative Assembly
(MPR) authorizes amendments to the constitution, the MPR could hand
over its authority to the commission, which will have been formed
by the MPR itself. The MPR will ratify the work of the committee once
it is completed. The commission will consist of different professionals
from different disciplines, not from different political parties.
If required, the commission could hire an expert consultant to manage
a stable transition of democracy. For instance, in South Africa, Nelson
Mandela employed [political scientist] Arend Lipjhart to manage his
Constructing a stable democratic system in a pluralistic society like
Indonesias where communal conflict is prevalent is, indeed,
not easy. Not surprisingly, a stable democracy has never occurred
in Indonesias history. Only new and comprehensive constructions
can solve this difficulty. To compel the political party chairmen
to give approval to the three elements of this agenda is certainly
not an easy task. However, it is where an innovator will show her
skill. Her leadership will be a model and will gain respect from her
political fellows or opponents.
As [U.S. President Bill] Clinton did, Megawati must form a think
tank that knows how to guide Indonesia through this rough transitional
period. Now, the chance to be recorded in history is open to
Megawati. Her options, decisions, strategies, initiatives, and
perceptions will determine the fate of her leadership in the
end. If Bung Karno, the first president and Megawatis
father, succeeded in establishing the national foundation of
Indonesia, Megawati will, hopefully, be remembered as the figure
who successfully solidified the foundation of democracy in Indonesia.