News / Asia

Indonesian President's 'Team of Rivals' Strategy Said Leading to Deadlock

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (File Photo)
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (File Photo)

Conflicts within the Cabinet of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have stifled efforts to reform the economy, crack down on corruption and promote pluralism and tolerance. This is the view of some political analysts, who say the president's strategy of forming his own "team of rivals" within his cabinet has weakened his ability to govern. 

Many of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's supporters were disappointed but not surprised by his decision to keep his cabinet intact in spite of widespread speculation about a shake-up in his coalition. Political analysts say this decision reflects more than the president's cautious personality, it also exposes a weakness in the country's democratic system.

Although President Yudhoyono won a landslide re-election victory in 2009, with more than 60 percent of the vote, his Democratic party controls only 25 percent of the seats in parliament. To gain a working majority there, the president invited rival parties to join a grand coalition and awarded Cabinet positions to opposing party officials.

But instead of creating a unified government, political analysts says some Cabinet members and coalition partners are working to undermine the president. Political commentator and longtime supporter of President Yudhoyono Wimar Witoelar is particularly critical of the Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali, a member of the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party. He says Ali's support for banning the Ahmadiyah sect contradicts the president's calls for tolerance. Many Muslims consider Ahmadiyah to be against Islam because its members do not believe Mohammad was the last prophet.

"The minister of religion is not only stifling the president's initiative, but he is subverting the desire of the Islam majority which is liberal, which is moderate, and some of them are outright liberal, and being pluralistic - a tradition which we prize most of all besides our democracy," said Suryadharma Ali.

Muhammad Qodari, an analyst with the political polling organization Indo Barometer agrees. He says President Yudhoyono miscalculated by assuming he could ensure political allegiance by giving influential Cabinet positions to rival parties.

"I think one mistake by Yudhoyono is that he always relate the support from his rival parties in parliament to the number of ministers at his own Cabinet," said Muhammad Qodari. "I imagine that Yudhoyono would have done much better if he pick his minister mostly based on their competence and professional background."

Even if some rival party members in the Cabinet are loyal to the president, Witoelar says their counterparts in parliament have hampered the president's efforts to crack down on corruption and reform the economy.

The president and his party have also been tainted by charges of corruption. Investigations into whether Vice President Boediono and then Finance Minister Sri Mulyani were involved in bailing out the Century Bank, in return for campaign donations, dragged on for months. Although the outcome was inconclusive, the president's legislative agenda was put on hold and, in the end, Mulyani resigned to become managing director of the World Bank.

Witoelar says, apart from differing political agendas and personality conflicts, there is a structural problem with the hybrid democratic system in Indonesia that includes both a president and parliament, with no clear majority party.

"We have to preserve both the presidency and the democratic party, but maybe define the rules of play for a multi-party system," said Witoelar. "And, the choice whether this is to be a presidential system like the American system or a parliamentary system like the European, French, British system. Now we are having the worst of both."

Qodari supports a proposed reform to require that parties win at least five percent of the national vote to gain a seat in parliament.

"I would say Indonesia would have a better situation, a simpler political constellation, if let's say there are only five political parties at the parliament and this should be implemented not only at the national level, but also at the local level," said Qodari.

For at least for the remainder of the president's term, he expects the combination of a contentious parliament and an overly cautious president will ensure a slow pace of change.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs