25 August 2010

Image Politics Indonesian Style...

It is hard not to be cynical when it comes to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, or SBY as he is known by the masses. The man must be coated in Teflon. He did not manage to only get elected to the presidency in Indonesia once, but twice.

The man has been a failure by any measure, particularly when it comes to fulfilling his campaign promises. With all due respect and fairness, most, if not all, politicians inflate and embellish their campaign promises in order to get elected.

However, the difference is that most politicians will have a crack and trying to come good on their campaign promises and either succeed to a degree or back track while trying to maintain some dignity as they hightail it with their tails between their legs. Yet, with SBY there has been no real effort to make headway on any of the significant campaign promises he or his Democrat Party made either in the 2004 or 2009 elections.

There has been some recent talk of trying to amend the 1945 Constitution with a view to making it possible for SBY to run for a third term. It won;t happen. The idea being that there are no other candidates out there that can do the job. This is all spin and all garbage. There are plenty of Indonesians out there that can do the job and could be doing a better job than SBY. It is an absurd proposition that with a population of 240 million that there is not one single solitary sole that could do the job!

The truth of the matter is a little bit more murky. The reality is that you have to be in with the right people and prepared to trade horses on a grand scale to reach the top. The entrenched elites of the Soeharto era remain and continue to fight hard to maintain their grip on the chains of power. The fact that a man like Aburizal Bakrie can head up a major political party and continue to avoid seeing his family companies pay out for the human error that caused the Sidoarjo mud extrusion is testament to money politics holding sway over good common sense.

So, back to image politics. The presidential spokesperson, Julian Aldrin Pasha, decided to write an opinion piece in Kompas (it is in Indonesian). The title of the piece is "Consistency of the President". I would agree, there is a need for the president to be consistent, consistently good!

The reality is that the president has been consistent. He has been consistent in his failures, he has been consistent in not being presidential, he has been consistent in avoiding making the hard decisions, he has been consistent in being weak on corruption, he has been consistent in abandoning Indonesians making real progress in reform - bureaucratic and legal, come to think of it the president has been consistent in doing nothing much at all.

So, why does he remain even mildly popular - image politics. He is the "spin president" (or is that the "President of Spin"?) He is all about image. The fact that the presidential spokesperson has written an opinion piece that is short on substance and big of smoke and mirrors just serves to highlight that those closest to the president will go to any lengths to convince ordinary Indonesians that the sun shines out of his nether regions (his arse for the less polite and courteous amongst us). This is image politics at its most crass!

The plainest reality of all is that SBY was elected because he represented promise, the unfulfilled potential that Indonesia continues to hold...he continues to be popular because people still want to believe that he can lead them to the promised land in spite of all the evidence that suggests he is leading them to the brink.

Thus endeth today's rant...ho hum!

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