Indonesia: SBY's First 100 Days - Looking for a Political Format


Assoc Professor David Reeve

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, affectionately called 'SBY' (Ess-Bey-Yey), convincingly won the second round presidential election on 20 October 2004. This was the first direct presidential election in Indonesian history, giving its winner major clout. But this is new territory. The ways in which a popular president works with an unruly parliament are still being worked out.

SBY's victory vindicated Indonesian opinion polls, a recent and imperfect science. His victory rebutted two alternative scenarios. First, that SBY had 'peaked' in July, and that his support was eroding, as people got to know him better. Second, that his military background would push supporters of civilian government back into Megawati's camp. Neither came true. SBY's key slogan, 'a secure, just and prosperous Indonesia', won the day. Expectations are high, and attention focussed on the first 100 days.

How is SBY to deliver on his promises, however, when he has a majority in the country but a minority in the parliament? The parliament has 550 seats, and SBY's Democrat Party only holds 57. Over November there has been much political wrangling, as the seven major parties have struggled to find a format. Progress has been slow.

Basically, parliament has become split into two blocs, one a Coalition generally supporting SBY and his cabinet, but holding only 233 seats (42per cent). This faces a 'National Coalition' with 275 seats (50per cent), led by Golkar with 129 seats, and apparently committed to being 'an Opposition' (something Indonesian has not had for decades). Not good for the government.

Apparently SBY's government will try to take over Golkar, at its national convention in Bali on 15-20 December. Current chairman Akbar Tanjung is an astute politician, but notorious. SBY's vice-president Yusuf Kalla was a Golkar leader until earlier this year. Yusuf Kalla has already been acting in a much more powerful and executive manner than recent vice-presidents.

There has long been discord in Golkar. It erupted a few weeks ago, when several senior figures denounced Akbar Tanjung and were expelled. They proposed Sultan Hamengkubuwono X of Yogyakarta as a leader, who would be respected. That would have been better for SBY.

But now, the government is looking at a direct takeover, via Yusuf Kalla. On 20 November he said he was 'thinking it over'. It would be quite a stroke to bring Golkar across from opposition. Still, Akbar Tanjung is politically wise, and Golkar's presidential candidate Wiranto is still around.

WATCHPOINT: Can survivor Akbar Tanjung stage a comeback yet again this December? Or will SBY strengthen his base in parliament?


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