Political parties, criminal politics and President Jokowi

Abdurrahman Syebubakar
Chairman of the Managing Board of the Institute for Democracy Education (IDe)

IO – Political parties are a main pillar of democracy. There is no country that can be called “democratic” unless it has multiple political parties. Theoretically, political parties channel the aspirations of the people, a means for politically enlightening the people, and prepare the cadres for our nation’s future leaders. How is the actuality in our country?

Since this Republic faced a second wave of democracy after the resignation of President Soeharto in mid ‘98, political parties sprouted up like mushrooms in the rainy season. Activists, religious figures, public figures, conglomerates, retired Army and Police officers, former officials, officials’ families, celebrities, heirs of past political powers, and even millennials group together to establish political parties. Initially, not a few of them claimed to have established only community organizations and sworn in public space that these “community organizations” would never become political parties. In fact, they shamelessly ate their own words and their “community organizations” become political parties “in the blink of an eye”.

Currently, there are 73 political parties registered `with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. 16 out of these 73 satisfied requirements for participating in the 2019 Elections. 12 of the 16 political parties participating in the Elections are old parties: Indonesia’s Struggle Democratic Party (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan – “PDIP”), People’s Conscience (Hati Nurani Rakyat – “Hanura”), National Democratic (Nasional Demokrat – “Nasdem”), (Partai Amanat Rakyat – “PAN”), Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera – “PKS”), Great Indonesian Movement (Gerakan Indonesia Raya – “Gerindra”), Functional Groups (Golongan Karya – “Golkar”, United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan – “PPP”, Democratic, People’s Awakening Party (Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa – “PKB”), Crescent Star Party (Partai Bulan Bintang – “PBB”), and Justice and Unity Party (Partai Keadilan dan Persatuan – “PKP”). The remaining 4 political parties are new parties: Indonesian Unity Party (Partai Persatuan Indonesia – “Perindo”), Indonesian Solidarity Party (Partai Solidaritas Indonesia – “PSI”), Working Party (Partai Berkarya), and Garuda Party.

It is no secret that political parties become the vehicle of money-and-power-hungry politicians. The recruitment of new members, administrators, and candidate legislators and executors of both central and regional political parties is based on an “economic contract”. It is little wonder that political parties are crowded money-grubbing politicians who seek money to get power to get money again, ad infinitum.

Political parties are like kingdoms. Full control is held in the hands of the “king” or “queen” and his/her immediate family. Leadership circulation is largely stagnant. There is barely any room available to people who are not friends and family members to hold power in political parties, unless they have thick wallets or at least show sufficient “devotion” to the “king” or “queen”.

For example, PDIP is Megawati, and Megawati and her family are PDIP. There is no Democratic Party without SBY, and SBY and his family become the “face” of the Democratic Party. Similarly, Gerindra is a middle-tier party that absolutely depends on Prabowo’s figure, while Nasdem Party is under the complete control of Surya Paloh, the media maestro who has left Golkar Party. Without him, Nasdem as a low-tier political party is nothing but a party in name only. The list goes on and on. This pathological condition is our current political situation.

Consequently, political parties become the main support of dynasty politics, the nepotistic politics that still cling to our electoral democracy. According to Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) data, there are at least 9 regional head and vice head candidates who are part of dynasty politics in the 2018 Simultaneous Regional Head Elections. Even though it is illegal, dynasty politics tend to be vulnerable to corruption and obstruct the flow of a healthy and open political power circulations.

The money-grubbing politicians who crowd political parties are close to the common people only nearing Elections. They would do whatever it takes to win people’s votes. They would bring out all charms, promise anything, and trade votes using money and basic necessity gift politics. This is their tradition: when the once-every-five years election rituals are completed, these politicians would simply forget the people. They only care about the tricks on how to maximize the yield from their candidacy “investments”, seeking profits for the next candidacy. They abuse their power to maintain and get power.

Money-grubbing politicians do not recognize the term “power abuse”. They simply break their vows and promises, then suddenly get afflicted with amnesia. Political education is ignored; there is no effort to enlighten the people. Money-grubbing politicians do not concern themselves with the people’s fate, but rather their own constituents’ fate. Instead of a forum for training future leaders and statesmen, political parties become an incubator for corruptors. Just about all political parties suffer from their members’ corruptive and deviant behavior.

Various sources have shown that corruption cases are predominantly caused by members of political parties that support President Jokowi. Of the 31 political party-related corruption cases in 2014 to 2017, 22 of them were “contributed” by Jokowi’s supporting political parties. In 2018, the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi – “KPK”) arrested 21 regional heads in Sting Operations (Operasi Tangkap Tangan – “OTT”). Nearly all of these corruptors come from political parties that support President Jokowi: 8 PDIP cadres, 5 Golkar cadres, 2 Nasdem cadres, 1 Perindo cadre, and 1 Aceh National Party (Partai Nasional Aceh – “PNA”) cadre. The rest came from political parties who oppose President Jokowi: 2 PAN cadres and 1 Partai Berkarya cadre. Furthermore, the Regent of Pakpak Bharat, North Sumatra, a cadre of the Democratic Party, was arrested by KPK in mid-November soon after having declared his support of the Joko Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin Presidential Pair Candidates.

It is widely known that a number of upper-tier politicians from the opposition who are suspected of corruption would tend to move their support to President Jokowi. These “political refugees” either hope to escape the law, or they are trapped by President Jokowi as political hostages. All types of political acrobatics are played out in such cases: they would suddenly turn around and leave their original affiliations.

Hary Tanoe, founder and Chairman of Perindo, suddenly and surprisingly changed the direction of his coalition and supported Jokowi. In August 2017, Hary Tanoe joined the ranks of Government supporter. Soon afterwards he was arrested for a corruption case relating to the tax restitution of his company, PT Mobil 8, which cost the State billions of rupiah.

The most infamous defector due to President Jokowi’s hostage politics, according to Tom Power of the Australian National University (ANU) in his article “Jokowi’s Authoritarian Turn”, is Tuan Guru Bajang (TGB), the Governor of West Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Barat – “NTB”), a well-known ulema as well as a Democratic Party politician (New Mandala, 9 October 2018). In 2014, TGB led Prabowo’s campaign in NTB and he was nominated for the presidency of the 212 Alumni Brotherhood (Persaudaraan Alumni – “PA”) 212.

When KPK started to investigate a suspicion of corruption in the sales of PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara shares in July 2018, TGB declared his support of President Jokowi. After leaving the Democratic Party, TGB currently belongs to the Nasdem Party, one of the primary political parties that support President Jokowi. Tom Power further revealed that PKS Zulkieflimansyah, TGB’s replacement as NTB’s Governor, also a suspect in the PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara case, immediately showed off his closeness with the incumbent by posting a joint picture of him and President Jokowi on his WhatsApp profile.

Other defectors who are suspected to be trapped as President Jokowi’s political hostages include: North Maluku’s Governor Abdul Ghani Kasuba from PKS, who defected to PDIP and who was recently declared the winner in the 2018 Regional Elections by KPU; Papua’s Governor Lukas Enembe, Democratic Party cadre suspected of involvement in various corruption scandals, announced his support for President Jokowi after getting re-elected in 2018; West Sumatera’s Governor Irwan Prayitno, PKS politician and member of Prabowo’s campaign team in 2014. All of them backpedaled and declared their support of President Jokowi (Tom Power and other sources, 2018).

The list of opposing politicians and regional heads who defect to the incumbent’s corner by the end of the year. It is difficult to believe that these defections are unrelated to the effort of getting the incumbent’s political protection from legal prosecution related to their cases. Or at least, it is difficult to believe that they are not being pragmatical and attempt to secure their power by supporting President Jokowi. After all, as the incumbent with the attendant political advantages – plus the ability to use any means possible – President Jokowi has a better chance of winning the presidency. They are not aware that if not properly managed, incumbent advantages might become a boomerang for the incumbent himself. We see this from the fact that President Jokowi himself follows along.

With such a chaotic condition, it is no wonder that Indonesia’s Corruption Perception Index (Indeks Persepsi Korupsi – “IPK”) rate remains stagnant at 37 point in 2016-2017, with its rank falling from 90th to 96th most honest country out of 180 countries existing in 2017. This means that there has been no significant improvement in corruption eradication in Indonesia. It is now far behind most other countries, even Timor Leste, that is ranked 91st (Transparency International 2018).

Instead of encouraging corruption eradication, the Government petrified KPK instead by criminalizing its former Chairman Abraham Samad and former Vice Chairman Bambang Widjojanto in 2015. Getting serious about eradicating corruption becomes even more difficult with the higher number of people in President Jokowi’s circle found to be involved or at least suspected in corruption cases. His primary political parties, PDIP and Golkar, are the 2 political parties linked with the highest number of corruption cases. As he is fully surrounded by political brokers and corrupt political party mob, it is practically impossible that President Jokowi would have the courage to fight the flow of corruption and criminal politics. It is highly likely that he would be caught in the flow, or even become the main perpetrator in corrupt policies and practices that hurt the common people.

These political parties that are rife with corruption cases sully democracy. They should be jailed and disqualified from the Elections. Or at least, their funding, which come from the State Budget (and therefore the people’s money), should be stopped. The people have the right to punish these parties and revoke support for them.