Economics Will Decide Who’s Next Indonesian Leader

Posted by Admin on Monday, 24 May 2004 | Opini

By Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo

JAKARTA – The presidential election to be held on July 5 will decide the future leadership of Indonesia. Some people, mostly intellectuals, do not expect much and say that the next leadership will not bring many changes and the objectives of reform will remain far away. They also say that the legislative elections held on April 5 did not portend any significant change for the future.

These pessimistic views fail to assess the reality well. The legislative elections did show changes which could influence Indonesia’s future.

There was, for instance, the unexpected rise of two small and new parties, the Democratic Party and the Prosperous Justice Party, which were able to gain the fifth and seventh rank among the political parties, bypassing older and better known parties like the Crescent Star Party and the National Mandate Party. The rise of these two parties will change the situation in the national and regional parliaments, and could influence future developments at the central and regional levels.

Pessimism about the outcome of the presidential election is also unwarranted. The new election system – in which people directly elect the team of president and vice-president – will provide much more legitimacy to Indonesia’s future national leadership.

The latter, in turn, will have more power to face the Indonesian parliament, and to steer the nation decisively according to its vision and objectives.

Of course, the leadership would be much stronger if it could also establish strong parliamentary support.

Looking at the presidential and vice-presidential candidates, political change is highly possible.

Among the candidates, we find enough action-oriented people who strive for improvement. Dr Amien Rais was known as the engine of reform back in the 1990s and his vice-presidential candidate Siswono Yudhohusodo is known as an effective leader of a real estate company and chairman of the Indonesian Farmers

Association.

Mr Wiranto and Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono are both retired generals who are achievement-oriented, and used to leading and managing large organisations. Mr Jusuf Kalla has effectively led his private enterprises and was a leading businessman in Makassar, South Sulawesi, before he became a Cabinet minister.

The problem lies, however, in the fact that there is no clear front-runner who can obtain more than 50 per cent of the votes on July 5, as required by the law to qualify as president. Without a decisive majority vote, a second round of voting is needed in September. In this round, the top two candidates from the July round vie for the presidency.

Candidates must demonstrate that they have the wherewithal to form Cabinets that will comprise people who can inspire confidence and steer Indonesia towards a brighter future.

After so many years of economic disruption and crisis, Indonesians want to see capable people lead the nation. For the improvement of the economy, they do not want clever theoreticians who are good only as university professors, but people who know how to move the economy in the direction for growth.

People want economic leaders who can improve employment opportunities, leaders who not only have brilliant macro-economic views but also know how to mobilise the micro-economy and alleviate poverty.

The presidential candidate most capable of forming an effective Cabinet and a good economic team will have the strongest chance of becoming the next leader of Indonesia.

Mr Bambang and Mr Wiranto are considered effective leaders for safeguarding domestic and national security. They also have demonstrated capabilities in representing Indonesia in productive cooperation with the outside world. If they can also prove that they can form effective economic teams, they stand a good chance of attracting the most votes.

Between the two, it is not clear who will have more supporters. But whichever one becomes president, Indonesia can expect a brighter future compared to the last seven years.

The writer is a retired lieutenant-general of the Indonesian Army.

Source : The Straits Times May 24, 2004

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