Elections just an arena for the restoration of New Order power

Kompas – December 4, 2003
KPU member Mulyana W. Kusumah (Pos Kota)
KPU member Mulyana W. Kusumah (Pos Kota)

Jakarta – The 2004 general election are expected to become an arena for the restoration or recycling of the old powers from the New Order [regime of former President Suharto] who are getting ready to win the 2004 elections. The 2004 elections will not bring any kind of alternative because the system has been engineered not to produce the slightest change.

There are even a number of groups who have openly stated that they will not use their right to vote in the elections because it carries no hope for change or possibility of giving birth to a government which can restore the economy.

At two separate discussion on Wednesday December 3, speakers took a similar line in speaking about their feelings of pessimism with regard to the elections. The discussions were titled “The 2004 Elections Post Political Party Verification” at the hotel Sahid, which was organised by Radio 68H and “Youth Examine the 2004 Elections”, which was organised by Indemo.

The secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), Natalia Scholastika said that the elections were in reality the most democratic arena in which to produce a new government. Only now, with the conditions here, this is an elections which has been engineered and planned so as to not produce the slightest change.

Even more so she said that it is precisely the political consciousness of modern society which is being used by political parties – which are collaborating with the New Order or political parties formed by the New Order – that will make the elections a merely ceremonial arena.

“Society will just view it as a festival of democracy, not an advance in political consciousness to bring change in a better direction”, said Natalia adding that the PRD does not have a perspective of boycotting the 2004 elections.

Natalia recalled that the people placed their hopes in the 1999 elections, after the 1998 reforms produced a more open and democratic political system. However the reality is that between 1999 and now, no change at all has occurred in the areas of the economy and politics.

Youth are pessimistic

In the discussion “Youth Examine the 2004 Elections” which was organised by Indemo, General Election Commission member Mulyana W. Kusumah also acknowledged that the 2004 elections will not bring any hope of change because of the participation of people from the old parties, who are using the old system. As a result, the elections will relegitimise the power of the status quo though change in a number of sectors, but will not be significant in terms of political change.

In relation to this, Mulyana saw the importance of political education for the people in the elections as was carried out by the Independent Election Monitoring Committee (KIPP) during the period of the Suharto regime.

The Indemo discussion was attended by ex-Malari1 activist Hariman Siregar, PRD chairperson Haris Rusli Moti, KIPP secretary general Ray Rangkuti and youth activists from a number of organisations and united actions.

The chairperson of the Indonesian Muslim Workers Union, Syahganda Nainggolan, was of the view that there are no large political parties which exist at the moment which have a vision to rebuild Indonesia. They only ever think about overturning the political or economic structure which is controlled by a small fraction of people. Such is the case with the presidential candidates which exist.

“[National Mandate Party chairperson] Amien Rais, [Vice-president] Hamzah Haz [from the United Development Party] and [President] Megawati have no vision about workers. We need a battering ram to save Indonesia” said Syahganda.

Haris Rusli meanwhile said that the elections were not important for young people because the regime which will be produced will not be capable of overcoming the crisis which has occurred. According to Haris, a movement rejecting the elections has not manifested itself in society. But what is clear is that all people desire change.

“Change depends on whether or not there are young people who will tolerate being played with, tolerate poverty, because the difficulty of change occurring is because of the behaviour of the activists themselves”, said Haris.

Danial Nafis, an activist from the United Indonesian Muslim Student Front (KAMMI), said that the fact that the 2004 elections are only going to become an arena for the consolidation of the power of the New Order means that it will not produce any significant change. Because of this said Nafis, KAMMI is taking a postion of rejecting the elections.

Geiss Chalifah, an Al Irsyad youth activists waned that if the coming elections fail it will mean that the regime which will come to power will be a military regime. (wis/BUR)


1. Malari – “The January 15 disaster” (Malapetaka 15 Januari) refers to a student demonstrations and riots against corruption and the military in Jakarta during the 1974 visit by the Japanese prime minister. More than 200 students were arrested and many jailed for long terms.

[Translated by James Balowski.]