What if Bambang wins …
ASIAN AGENDA: INDONESIAN PRESIDENTIAL RUN-OFF ELECTION
Indonesians vote today in a final run-off election to determine who will be their president for the next five years. Indonesia Bureau Chief DERWIN PEREIRA examines the two scenarios – what to expect if incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri wins, and what could happen if former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is victorious.
Ex-general likely to take tough stance against terrorism.
Former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is likely to be a war president in the fight against terrorism.
His close aides reveal that should there be another deadly bomb attack in Indonesia – this time under his watch – he is expected to publicly declare war on the militants, in the same way that US President George W. Bush did after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.
It would mean a marshalling of all state resources to do battle with them, and that is likely to include pushing through laws that will allow for detention without trial.
Following on the heels of three civilian leaders since former president Suharto’s fall in May 1998, Mr Bambang could emerge as a strongman – or a ‘benevolent autocrat’, as some have put it.
His get-tough stand on terrorism underscores a familiar pattern, his detractors argue. Why wait for another bombing to declare war on terrorists, they will ask, repeating the oft-heard criticism that the former general has shown a tendency to dither rather than act.
But its political ramifications might be far-reaching. It could pave the way for the military’s resurgence in a major realignment of Indonesian politics, which could also see a shake-up of the major parties as Mr Bambang moves to shore up his power base.
The threat of terrorism is widely expected to give the armed forces (TNI) a higher profile in internal security, given the dismal performance of the police in this area.
With its extensive territorial command structure and intelligence capabilities, the TNI is well-placed to uncover and smash terrorist cells.
But the military is only one of three critical factors that will shape his agenda and the execution of his policies.
Mr Bambang will also have to restore international confidence in Jakarta’s ability to fight terrorism and navigate the byzantine course of domestic politics.
He is hampered by the fact that his hold in the legislature is tenuous at best because he does not enjoy a parliamentary majority. This will be critical when he attempts to push through controversial laws, especially against extremists.
Detention without trial, akin to legislation in Singapore and Malaysia, is being considered seriously by his team of legal and military experts.
Mr Syamsir Siregar, an ex-military intelligence chief and one of several retired generals in his election team, told The Straits Times: ‘We have had three major bombings in Indonesia over the past two years.
‘What is the point of catching these people after an attack? We should catch them way before … That is why we need tougher laws against these terrorists, who are a disgrace to Islam.’
Mr Bambang will have to tread carefully to avoid a domestic backlash from the Muslim ground and concerns from human rights groups.
But, as Mr Syamsir noted, this could turn out to be ‘not a major political impediment’.
‘Indonesians have been the victims of these terrorist attacks,’ he said. ‘They want justice … For Abu Bakar Bashir and his group from Jemaah Islamiah, they will be executed by a firing squad if found guilty.’
Such thinking reflects the more hawkish elements in the Bambang camp. Ultimately, there will be a need to balance international expectations with domestic concerns.
The war on corruption is likely to have wider support – at home and abroad. That is why the Bambang team has been bold enough to draw up a list of names of conglomerates, former ministers and politicians who will face investigations over graft.
His key political adviser explained: ‘All eyes at home and abroad will be on him to do something about an age-old problem. Bambang will want to make a strong statement … There will be arrests and high-profile trials.’
If he is to sweep into power on a public mood for change, corruption will be a litmus test for a new administration that will be dominated by a clique of trusted advisers, politicians and US-trained professionals.
His inner circle includes former PDI-P stalwarts Heru Lelono and Suko Sudarso, former Golkar secretary-general Rachmat Witoelar and economist Joyo Winoto.
There is an outer ring of retired military officers, including Mr Edi Sudradjat, Mr Syamsul Muarif, Mr Jusuf Djalil and Mr Syamsir.
Also on this list are members of the team that served him when he was security czar in the Megawati government – Lieutenant-General Sudi Silalahi, Colonel Kurdi Mustofa and Colonel Harsanto Adi Soekamto.
Mr Joyo, Mr Rachmat and Gen Sudi are likely to feature in key Cabinet appointments.
Mr Bambang has lined up two possible candidates for the attorney-general’s hot seat.
One of them is lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, who runs a successful law firm in Indonesia. The other is human rights advocate Marsilam Simandjuntak who, observers believe, will not hesitate to ‘use the sledgehammer’ on those accused of graft.
Members of Mr Bambang’s economic team will most probably be drawn from the private sector. They include Dr Ersa Tandjung and Dr Sri Mulyani, both of whom are from the University of Indonesia, and economist Mari Pangestu, the former executive director of the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
According to his advisers, economic policy will focus on job creation, privatisation and investments. There will also be moves to develop the agricultural sector and small- and medium-sized enterprises.
But attracting foreign capital and funds will be the most critical. High on a Bambang administration’s list of priorities will be a radical rethink of labour and tax policies to make Indonesia more competitive internationally.
Mr Bambang hopes to raise investment to 30 per cent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product in five years and to push economic growth up a few notches to 7 per cent.
But achieving his goals will not be easy. Splits are already emerging in his team as his close aides jostle for positions in government. His relationship with his deputy Jusuf Kalla is also ‘not harmonious’, sources say, with the South Sulawesi-born businessman having his own ideas about managing the economy.
Their alliance is based on political expediency. But their relationship is rooted in suspicion and rivalry, which harks back to when both of them were ministers in the Megawati administration.
Then, Mr Jusuf stole the limelight for dealing effectively with regional conflicts in Poso and Maluku.
In contrast, Mr Bambang came across as slow and indecisive in handling a range of security problems, including separatist violence in Aceh and Papua, his critics charge.
His detractors point out that there were two major terrorist attacks – the Bali bombing in October 2002 and Marriott bombing in August 2003 – when he was security czar.
Said Mr Jusuf Wanandi of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies: ‘How can we trust this man? His track record as a minister is inadequate … He is making decisions under pressure from many retired generals, who have their own agenda.’
Besides doubts cast on his ability, many problems such as corruption are too chronic to resolve immediately.
Mr Bambang may have declared that he will serve only a term, but his ambition is to see through the reform process over a 10-year period.
Given such motivations, his rivals believe he will use the powers of incumbency to build up his small Democrat Party by drawing support away from major players such as Golkar and the Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle, both of which are riven with internal dissension.
Change, there will be. But will it be enough to persuade Indonesians to vote him into power for another five years?