When the elections are over...

Down to Earth No 62  August 2004

This year, political life in Indonesia has been dominated by elections for national and regional parliaments, regional representatives council and, finally, for a new president. Choosing the president will take several more months as there has been no clear winner in July's first round. But once the election dust settles, what will be the difference for the vast majority of Indonesians? How much hope is there that the new government will take effective steps to reduce poverty, resolve conflicts and address the fundamental issue of control and access to land and natural resources?


WALHI: bleak outlook whoever wins elections
Indonesia's biggest environment network, WALHI, has predicted that the next president and his or her government will not offer any solutions to the country's environmental crisis. In its 'Political Statement' for the 2004-2009 period, WALHI says that the enthusiasm and optimism of five years ago have been reversed. The hope of creating a democratic, just and sustainable Indonesia has been dashed by a corrupt political elite which has subjugated itself to international capital, as represented by the World Bank, IMF, multinational companies and industrialised nations. The statement paints a bleak picture of a country entrenched in political, economic, socio-cultural and ecological crisis.

The ecological crisis, says WALHI, arose because the state, investors and the "modern" system has reduced nature to a set of commodities to be engineered and exploited for short-term economic gain. The expansion of monocultures, forest exploitation and mineral extraction has already caused ecological devastation. Privatisation of natural wealth, both for commercial and conservation purposes, has prevented ordinary people's access to and control over their sources of livelihood. Yet it is they who suffer the negative impacts of forest fires, floods, droughts, pollution and the water crisis.

The programmes of all five presidential candidates are dominated by a development paradigm of achieving economic growth by exploiting natural resources. They and their running mates "have no environmental vision". WALHI says it will fight for environmental rights as a fundamental human right. It asserts that the organisation will take a stance of opposition towards whoever wins the elections. Finally, the statement calls on all Indonesians, especially the victims of natural disasters, investment, corruption, violence and other human rights violations to "organise, build up people power, and adopt an independent and critical position towards the future government."

(Source: Pernyataan politik WALHI terhadap pemerintahan periode 2004-2009, 2/Jul/04)


Ten agenda points to attain justice
A group of 59 Indonesian NGOs issued a joint declaration to remind the new government of the most basic issues that need immediate attention. These include: political education needed to fight the authorities' "deception and manipulation"; fighting corruption, including bringing former President Suharto to trial; a halt to the theft of natural resources; protection for women; pro-people living space; restoration of land ownership rights; a stop to impunity for human rights violators; an end to militarism, to the "politics of thuggery" and militias; and fair taxation to close the widening gap between rich and poor.

According to Binny Buchori, Executive Director of the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), the declaration could also help the public decide which presidential candidates to vote for and serve as a tool for NGOs monitoring and evaluating the next government. The summary statement by the Jakarta Social Forum is on INFID's website at www.infid.be/statement_10agenda.htm

Source: INFID's Short News Overview No.V/18 June 18-Jul 16, 2004.


What the two top candidates say

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - former security minister under Megawati and retired army general:

  • says he will help the economy by increasing oil and mining exploration, boosting the agricultural sector and improving and creating new tourism destinations; 
  • supports capital punishment for drug dealers, corrupters and gross human rights abusers; 
  • says there should be a review of pending corruption cases, and suspended or ignored cases should be reopened - then he will take stern measures; 
  • says he will maintain the military's territorial structure (the system that places military personnel in every province and district, right down to village level) but that the military should not be involved in politics; he also promises to increase Indonesia's defence budget so that the police and military "will have enough funds to settle domestic conflicts across the country." Much of the budget is currently believed to disappear as a result of corruption within the armed forces; 
  • does not oppose the expulsion of International Crisis Group (ICG) staff by the National Intelligence Agency, but merely said that the reasons for it should be clearly explained*.


Megawati Soekarnoputri - president since 1999, who came to power on a reform ticket:

  • says it's hard to track down timber smugglers because of the lack of equipment to catch them; 
  • has asked for more time to deal with economic problems and crack down on corruption, saying that the problems started many years ago and it hasn't been easy, but that progress has been made; 
  • promises to create 13 million jobs and cut poverty by 40% - no details given; 
  • says that Indonesia has been more serious than other countries in combating terrorism and will continue its efforts.

* Indonesia's decision to expel Sidney Jones, director for Southeast Asia of the International Crisis Group, plus another international member of ICG staff was greeted with dismay by foreign governments and civil society organisations in May. The two were told to leave because the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) considered them a threat to Indonesia's security. NGOs see the move as a return to the repressive measures of the Suharto era and are concerned about the prospect of further intimidation against those critical of the government and military. The head of the intelligence agency has said that another 19 NGOs are being monitored. The human rights NGO Kontras challenged him to name these organisations and their 'crimes', but there has been no response.



The provisional results of the elections as of July 29 were:

1. Susilo (SBY) 33.59 %
2. Megawati 26.25 %
3. Wiranto 22.18 %
4. Amien Rais 14.94 %
5. Hamzah 3.05 %

(Source: tnp.kpu.go.id/)

Since no candidate has scored over 50% of votes in the first round, voters will choose between Democratic Party (PD) leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Megawati (PDI-P) in a second round in September.

(Source: Laksamana.Net 26/Jun/04; Amnesty International Public Statement ASA 21/018/2004 3/Jun/04; Reuters 30/Jun/04, 1/Jul/04; AFP 1/Jul/04; AP 1/Jul/04; Jakarta Post 2,28/Jul/04; Reuters 1/Jul/04, Sydney Morning Herald 3/Jun/04)