27 January 2009

A Musing or A Ramble or a Bit of Both?

This year is an election year in Indonesia. That in and of itself will either excite people or bore the hell out of them. However, this little rambling musing is about change politics and the "yes, we can" philosophy seen recently in the US.

The Indonesian press and blogosphere has generally been pro-Obama and holds out high hopes that the new president of the US of A will be pro-Indonesia based on 4 or so years the man spent here as a child. The most recent warm and fuzzy moments relate to a You tube video doing the rounds showing the US president showing off his Indonesian language skills.

There are a couple of points to be made here. First, politics is always bigger than the person. Obama as president might be able to influence policy to some degree towards Indonesia, but the question is why do Indonesians think that this is such a positive? There was nothing in the campaign that he ran that would suggest that he is focusing on policy development related to Indonesia and nothing to say that this is going to be in Indonesia's benefit. Second, the love affair that Indonesians seem to have with the new US president highlights an extreme lack of hope in their own Indonesian politicians and the future of Indonesia.

Let's face it, when push comes to shove there are two possibilities being touted for Indonesia and depending on the day, it is either Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) or Megawati Soekarnoputri as the shoe-ins for the presidency of Indonesia. Why is this interesting? It is interesting because when it is all said and done this is politics as usual in Indonesia and not the change politics that the Indonesian media seem to have fallen for with Obama. It is also interesting because if the media really believed in change politics then the media would be excellent facilitators of promoting that change.

On Megawati, it must not be forgotten that Indonesia's most recent political assassination took place on her watch. The assassination of Munir has yet to see the "real" perpetrators of this crime identified, prosecuted, or jailed for their crimes. This is hardly an advertisement for a second crack at the big chair! It is also worth noting that Munir was particularly critical of SBY as being a military man with no commitment to investigating abuses of human rights, particularly in Aceh.

SBY has gone on the record as saying the investigation and prosecution is a test of his government's commitment to human rights and pursing justice for victims of abuses. He and his government have clearly failed this test.

The Indonesian political style of money dictating outcomes is rising its ugly head again, albeit in the form of crass public policy. The reduction of fuel prices is nothing but an attempt to draw votes by buying into the wallets of constituents and trying to avert attention aways from a poor record as president by SBY. Poor, is subjective but when you get elected with a change mandate like SBY, and then fail to deliver, it is fair that questions be asked of and on that record.

The most likely outcome is going to be people exercising their democratic right not to vote. This is known locally as Golput (golongan putih or the white group). I am anti-golput for many reasons, but most prevalent among these is that it is an affront to those who have laid down their lives to ensure that Indonesians achieved a "real" right to vote. It is a sad state of affairs that if among the 1000's of candidates that can be elected there is not one that represents your ideals, beliefs, hopes, and aspirations.

The idea that SBY or Megawati or someone else can reach the pinnacle of political power with a minority of voters electing them is sad. I accept that this is a feature of a non-compulsory voting system and even the grand old democracy known as the USA does not demand that its citizens vote if they do not want to. Yet, that is hardly the point.

Personally, I would vote and choose that minority candidate even if I was sure that they would not be elected. It is important that they know that they have support. Vote for the alternative candidate. It is also an equally effective way of showing the powers that be and those that do get elected that there are plenty of people out there who did not vote for them and place their faith in others.

I am the eternal optimist when it comes to all things Indonesian, and this is no different when it comes to matters of general and presidential elections.

Thus endeth this rambling musing.

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