17 April 2010

Julia Perez and Democracy in Indonesia...

It would seem that the Minister of Home Affairs, Gamawan Fauzi, indicated that the government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was going to amend the eligibility criteria for prospective candidates for political office. Generally, these amendments are thought to include provisions that would stipulate that candidates have certain levels of practical political experience before being nominated.

Indonesia has had, and currently has, quite a number of celebrities make the move from celebrity to politician. Some have done better than others. However, this post is not a critique of each celebrities performance as a politician, but rather to pose the question; "does amending the laws in this way amount to an attack on democracy and the right of individuals to run for office?"

Julia Perez thinks that it is. Most Indonesian media is reporting the story and Ms. Perez has been quite vocal in stating that she believes that the proposed amendments are designed to thwart her bid for public office. The government in contrast say that the rationale is more general in its undertaking; politics is not a popularity contest. Therefore, candidates need to have real and practical political skills if they are going to assume office and be successful.

The reality is that not everyone with political experience will make a good candidate. In any event, it might be worth pondering how one goes about getting political experience if they are never allowed to run for office because they do not have any political experience in order to be nominated. A vicious circle of the chicken and egg kind.

In a democracy you get what you vote for, but this would seemingly be premised on having choices in who you can vote for. However, amending the laws and regulations to stipulate certain "professional experience" levels before one can be nominated and a chance at being elected clearly suggests that the government is seeking to limit the choices that voters have, which appears to be most undemocratic for a President, a government, and a country who prides themselves on the leaps and bounds they have made towards full-scale democracy.

Even if I had the choice, I probably would not vote for Julia Perez. Then again, it depends on what policies she has and how she articulates them. And, most importantly, whether she articulates them in such a way that I believe she can achieve the outcomes that she promises. But, I believe that she has, and must always have, the right to run for public office if she so desires. Let the people decide!

Interesting times!


Brett said...

It kind of begs the question: who decides if someone has sufficient political experience? Sounds awfully like guided "democracy" to me. Personally, I wonder how quickly Indonesia's problems would resolve if we changed the rules so that everyone must have NO prior experience....?

Rob Baiton said...

@ Brett...

Funnily enough, it appears that the government wants to make this decision. If I am reading it correctly, the government is trying to re-introduce the morality clauses that were in the original law.

The idea being very much of saving people from themselves.

There is always something to be said for experience, and whether or not one has any. Yet, having political experience is no guarantee of success. Then again, being a celebrity is no guarantee of making one a better politician.

Ultimately, I believe that Indonesians are wise enough to be able to elect the officials that they want without this sort of interference from the government. My guess is that Indonesians do not need saving from themselves but from their current government and politicians :D

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