Jokowi II: Indonesia becoming a 'family state'?

Jokowi II: Indonesia becoming a 'family state'?

Last month, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo was inaugurated as Indonesia's seventh president for his second and final term. After a wide 55.5% to 45.5% victory at the polls, the president also secured backing for his policies in both legislative chambers, ensuring a solid platform for government over the next five years.

Given that his governing coalition of five parties boasts 349 seats, or 70.08% of the chamber, leaving the four-party opposition with just 226 seats (29.92%), it should be easy for the president to implement his top policy priorities, including human resource development.

The president named a 50-member administration led by 34 ministers and tagged the "Onward Indonesia Cabinet". The new cabinet comprises a mix of politicians (45%) and professionals or technocrats (55%), with the ratio of technocrats to politicians 27 to 23.

President Jokowi has called for coalition and opposition parties to work together (gotong royong) in a new spirit of cooperation, for a more prosperous Indonesia. But his gotong royong mindset also signals a new era of compromises he must make in order to secure his status and negotiate political tensions over the next five years.

Observers point to Nadiem Anwar Makarim's appointment as minister of education and culture. The founder and CEO of local ride-hailing giant Gojek Indonesia has been brought in to represent the "millennial" segment. Meanwhile there's no change at the Finance Ministry, where Sri Mulyani has retained her portfolio.

But the biggest surprise was the appointment of Gerindra Party chief, Prabowo Subianto, as defence minister. The losing presidential candidate -- who is accused of complicity in numerous human rights abuses during his military career -- has finally found a place at the top of political tree. Gerindra, which was expected to head the opposition, received a second cabinet post after Edhy Prabowo was appointed minister of maritime affairs and fisheries.

To tackle the security situation -- racial tensions in Papua and the rise of radical Islamist movements -- Jokowi appointed national police chief Tito Karnavian as home affairs minister. Another ex-police officer, Inspector General Firli Bahuri, was named chief of the Corruption Eradication Commission, prompting comment that Indonesia may be moving towards a "police state", where power is preserved through tight controls on public life.

This echoes the "family state" discourse put forward by David Bourchier in his book "Illiberal Democracy in Indonesia". Bourchier, an associate professor at the University of Western Australia, noted that Indonesia's New Order was built on two foundations: integralism and the family state. The New Order was the name given to Indonesia's second administration, under General Suharto, after Sukarno's Old Order.

Bourchier observed that the key guides for Suharto's leadership were the New Order thinkers who studied abroad in Leiden, the Netherlands. The Leiden thinkers offered a corporatist model of representation, in opposition to western democracy. These thinkers viewed society and government as a single entity that live in harmony. This view was supported by the "integralist state" theory of Soepomo -- one of the country's founding fathers -- which said society and state are formed on the idea of kinship.

Suharto began working on the foundations of a new political and economic policy after the bloody 30 September Movement that killed six of Indonesia's top generals. The military leader and his "Berkeley Mafia" of technocrats knew that to achieve strong economic growth they would need a strong state to suppress public dissent. He launched his own party, Golkar, consolidated his control by extending military law into civilian life, and boosted international funding. Via Golkar's domination he secured a rubber-stamp parliament.

To back his nationalist ideology he remade Pancasila, Indonesia's founding philosophy, in his own image. It was driven by the Javanese saying manunggaling kawulo gusti -- there is no domination of one group by another and no separation between the rulers and the ruled. Hitching his New Order to Pancasila cleared the way to oppress all alternative political ideologies or social movements, which were branded as anti-Pancasila. The New Order fell in 1998, but Bourchier believes the "family state" remains a potent idea with potential to spread.

A May-June 2019 poll conducted by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) showed freedom of expression and of organisation had deteriorated under Jokowi's leadership. LSI's executive director Djayadi Hanan said public fear is growing over the direction of Jokowi's government.

The survey showed that 43% of respondents were afraid to express their opinions, almost double the figure of 24% recorded in 2014 when Jokowi came to power. Meanwhile 38% said they were afraid of arbitrary arrest by the security apparatus, compared to just 14% in 2014.

The figures are easily explained by developments during Jokowi's first term. The ban on Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) -- whose aim is to build an Islamic caliphate in opposition to Pancasila ideals -- set a precedent.

During the 2019 presidential election campaign, President Jokowi's electronic information and transactions law (UU ITE) was used to arrest Prabowo supporters accused of spreading hate speech. More recently, political activists Dandhy Laksono and Ananda Badudu were arrested for, respectively, tweeting about riots in Papua and taking part in Jakarta's September riots. We can also find abuse of academic freedoms via censorship, and blocking of websites to curb tensions in Papua.

In February 2017, President Jokowi said he believed Indonesian democracy was "excessive" and enabled radicalism, fundamentalism and other anti-Pancasila doctrines to flourish.

Following these trends, individual Indonesian citizens are being subject to greater surveillance, both by state bodies and societal actors, as noted by Ken Setiawan of the University of Melbourne. These developments may signal the rise of illiberal democracy and/or the "family state".

With Gerindra joining the cabinet, the opposition has been reduced to three parties (the National Mandate Party (PAN), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Democrat Party), with 148 seats in parliament. Expect Jokowi and his coalition to dominate Indonesia's political sphere for the next five years.

Hafiz Noer is a Research Executive at KRA Group and Associate Fellow at the Institute of Sustainability, Development, and Society at Policylab. The opinions expressed are his own and do not represent any of these institutions.


Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (1)

Govt spokeswoman resigns, fuels cabinet post speculation

Narumon Pinyosinwat has resigned from the job of government spokeswoman, further fuelling speculation she will be appointed deputy labour minister in the new cabinet line-up.

16:44

Red Bull prosecution probe known Tuesday

A seven-member panel of prosecutors set up to investigate the dismissal of charges against Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya in an alleged hit-and-run case in 2012 is set to reveal its findings on Tuesday, Office of the Attorney General deputy spokesman Prayuth Phetkhun said on Monday.

16:08

Markets mostly down as virus forces new lockdowns

Asian and European markets mostly fell Monday with sentiment depressed by a spike in coronavirus infections that has forced fresh lockdowns and sparked worries about the impact on the world economy.

15:47