Experts Predict Another Dramatic Year in Indonesian Politics

President Joko Widodo. (Antara Photo/Widodo S. Jusuf)

By : Fuska Sani Evani & Yustinus Paat | on 4:09 PM December 31, 2015
Category : News, Politics, Featured

Jakarta. Observers predict that 2016 will be yet another dramatic year in Indonesian politics, with unresolved scandals and tensions carrying over from this year.

The prolonged splits within the Golkar Party and the United Development Party (PPP), which have lasted more than a year now with no end in sight, are some of the issues that will continue to rock the balance of an already fractious political landscape.

Another potential source of conflicts is the alleged corruption inside state-owned port operator Pelindo II, and the contract negotiation of mining giant Freeport Indonesia.

In the Pelindo case, political pressure has been mounting for President Joko Widodo to replace State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno, which Joko is likely to play down.

The Freeport saga has already cost top legislator Setya Novanto his job as speaker of the House of Representatives, after he was caught on an audio recording trying to bilk $4 billion worth of shares from the company’s chief executive.

Setya resigned before the House Ethics Council could convict him of any wrongdoing in a tribunal; some legislators are now agitating for an inquiry into the government’s own stance on the Freeport contract issue, in a thinly veiled attempt at avenging Setya’s ouster.

2015 also saw the National Mandate Party (PAN) ditch the opposition in support of Joko’s ruling coalition.

Gadjah Mada University political expert Mada Sukmajati said the PAN would want something in return for its support – namely a seat or two in Joko’s cabinet, which could upset other coalition partners.

“Jokowi’s [initial] pick for National Police chief […] proves that Jokowi bows down to the demands of the parties [supporting him]. This is dangerous for the balance of his administration,” Mada said on Thursday.

He was referring to the nomination at the start of 2015 of Budi Gunawan, a former aide to Joko’s political patron, Megawati Soekarnoputri, to the post of top cop – despite widespread allegations of money-laundering by the police general. Joko eventually withdrew the nomination, but not before the scandal saw the police level a spate of dubious charges against antigraft commissioners in response to their naming Budi a corruption suspect.

The continued political instability will hinder Joko’s performance, taking his attention away from the key infrastructure projects and series of economic reforms his administration has rolled out, analysts say.

Arya Fernandes, a researcher with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said Joko must show his patrons and cabinet members who is in charge.

“Jokowi showed his strength in the latter six months [of 2015]. He exerted some control over his cabinet. In 2016, Jokowi must show that he is fully in control,” Arya said on Thursday.

“If the president fails to control his cabinet, the ministers will continue to fight one another and sideline their jobs. Jokowi must show strength, that he can handle the infighting between his ministers which has been apparent all year long.”

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