Subject: Candidates' Track Records: Who Cares?; Ex-Generals Crowd Indonesian Presidential Race

also: Lapindo case, Munir's murder, 1998 riot haunt candidates' past; Track records not a big deal for media: Survey; Ex-Generals Crowd Indonesian Presidential Race

The Jakarta Post Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Special Reports: Hopefuls fortunate as voters don't keep list

Unlike in developed countries, the controversial track records of pre-sidential and vice presidential candidates are secondary to political charisma and piousness when it comes down to who voters will choose to lead the nation. The Jakarta Post digs into the issue as why voters are not more perturbed.

In the upscale residential compound of Bukit Cinere Indah, Depok, West Java, it was not Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's high-flying track record that lured voters, but his wise-looking demeanor that charmed housewives and teenage girls during the 2004 presidential election.

Of course it helped that among his rival was the tedious-looking Amien Rais.

Regardless, around 70 percent of the registered voters there were women, and during the counting, Yudhoyono's popularity soared.

This is just an example of irrationality and emotion trumping logic at the ballot box.

Factors stemming from ethnic diversity, a widespread lack of higher education and rising fanaticism have deeply ingrained voters from putting track records on their last list when selecting a candidate.

According to historian Asviwarman Adam from the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), regardless of their background, people vote irrationally for religious, nationalist, aesthetic, ethnic and financial reasons.

These patterns, aside from money politics, have played out since the 1955 election when voters were strongly divided along religious and nationalist lines, he said.

Supporters of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the nation's biggest Islamic organization, fanatically voted for Islamic candidates with NU backgrounds, regardless of their past performances or political scandals.

Die-hard supporters of former president Soekarno are unlikely to vote for any other candidate other than Megawati Soekarnoputri and her descendents, according to Asviwarman.

"Aside from the nationalist and religious radicals, irrationality may also stem from physical appearances and vote buying. But this will only occur in the last minutes before the poll," he said.

"So it'll be no surprise if housewives tend to pick Yudhoyono because he is considered more handsome than the other candidates. There is also a possibility that voters will be lured by money given by campaign teams in exchange for the vote of a specific candidate, just hours before the election."

According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), as of 2008, 36.4 percent of the country's 109.9 million population eligible to work are elementary school graduates and 19 percent are junior high school graduates.

This figure excludes housewives, students and pensioners.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) estimates that there are 176 million eligible voters registered for the 2009 presidential election.

Sociologist Imam B. Prasodjo, from the University of Indonesia, believes that it is unrealistic to expect voters to consider the track records of candidates, due to differences in culture, education levels and ideology.

"We cannot expect much from voters if their educational backgrounds are low.

"How many of them read newspapers and watch the news on TV? Very few," he said.

"If they did have access to this media, it would be difficult for them to digest the campaign speeches delivered by the candidates."

Voters ingrained with cultural stereotypes will tend to pick candidates based on their place of birth, who their parents are, and what kind of manners and ethnic traits they display, said Imam.

The Javanese, which are the largest ethnic in Indonesia, will tend to pick candidates from the same group.

In the presidential race, Jusuf Kalla is the only candidate from South Sulawesi, while rival Yudhoyono is from East Java and Megawati Soekarnoputri is from Yogyakarta.

As Javanese rule is so dominant, none of the vice presidential candidates are from outside Java.

Boediono was born in East Java, Wiranto in Yogyakarta and Prabowo Subianto in Jakarta.

On the ideological front, religious and political views are likely to be more influential than reason in this election.

With Muslims accounting for 85 percent of the population, none of the presidential and vice presidential candidates are Christians or Buddhists.

Religion has even become a sensitive issue manipulated to sideline rival candidates.

Rival candidates have questioned both Yudhoyono's and Boediono's Islamic faith when their wives do not wear a headscarf like those of Kalla's and Wiranto's.

On top of that, there have been recent rumors that Boediono's wife is a Catholic.

Eventually, proving the importance of religious appearances in the political sphere, both Yudhoyono and Boediono promptly clarified the issues and ordered their wives to occasionally wear headscarves to present an image of a good Muslim family.


The Jakarta Post Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Special Reports: Lapindo case, Munir's murder, 1998 riot haunt candidates' past

Megawati Soekarnoputri


1. While Megawati was in office, noted human rights activist Munir was poisoned to death on board a flight with state airline Garuda Indonesia to the Netherlands on Sept. 7, 2004. Officials with the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) were initially accused of involvement in the case. On Jan. 25, 2008, the Supreme Court granted an appeal from prosecutors to detain Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, a possible BIN agent, over his role in Munir's death. Pollycarpus is currently serving 20 years in jail. Another suspect, former BIN deputy chairman Muchdi Pr, was acquitted by the court on Dec. 31, 2008. Prosecutors are currently awaiting an appeal with the Supreme Court.

2. Megawati declared Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam a conflict zone, igniting a massive military effort against the rebel movement. More than 2,000 people were killed between 2001 and 2004.

3. Megawati signed a deal in 2002 to supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Tangguh field in Papua to China's Fujian province. The deal drew heated criticism due to the low prices agreed upon in the contract. Yudhoyono and Kalla dubbed it "the most devastating contract ever made". Under the terms, the price was pegged at US$2.40 per million British thermal units (mmbtu), regardless of the increases in crude oil prices.

4. It was during Megawati's term that state holdings in PT Indosat, the nation's second largest telecommunication company, were controversially sold to Singapore's Temasek Holdings in late 2002. A lack of transparency throughout the sale prompted widespread criticism.

Noted Achievements

1. Megawati was accredited with repairing the country's economy and mobilizing fiscal policy toward stabilizing the markets for companies to function successfully and encourage entrepreneurs. The economy grew by 5.2 percent in 2004 against 3.32 percent in 2001.

2. The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) was formed during Megawati's time in office.

Wealth (As of Dec. 9, 2004)

Rp 86.26 billion

Prabowo Subianto

Past Controversies

1. Prabowo oversaw the kidnapping of dozens of political activists while serving as commander of the Army's Special Force (Kopassus) between 1995 and 1998. 10 activists remain missing. The military honorary council discharged Prabowo on Aug. 24, 1998, for his role in the abductions. The council also stripped Prabowo's colleague Maj. Gen. Muchdi Pr from his post as Kopassus commander and barred him from future promotion as a consequence of his alleged involvement with assisting Prabowo.

2. Prabowo was allegedly involved in the deadly Jakarta riots between May 13 and 15, and the shooting of Trisakti University students during a protest on May 13. Four students were killed and 11 injured. Prabowo was the commander of the Army's Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) at that time. He has repeatedly denied any involvement in the riots.

Noted achievements

As President Soeharto's son-in-law, Prabowo had all the funding and authority necessary to develop Kopassus into a highly effective force. In 2000, Prabowo and Titiek Soeharto divorced.

Wealth (As of May 18, 2009)

Rp 1.7 trillion.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Past controversies

1. 1996 riot: Allegedly involved in engineering a deadly riot after a mob took over the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) at the height of a power struggle between Megawati Soekarnoputri and rival Soerjadi on July 27, 1996. According to the National Human Rights Commission, five civilians were killed, 149 were injured and 23 were unaccounted for in the incident. However, several witness accounts say dozens were killed during the incident. Yudhoyono's position as Jakarta's military command chief of staff overseeing logistics and finance linked him to the case, along with former Jakarta governor, commander Lt. Gen. (ret) Sutiyoso. On May 19, 2000, then Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Yudhoyono was questioned by the National Police as a witness in the case against Sutiyoso, who was named as a suspect in this incident. On Aug. 28, 2000, Yudhoyono said the case was engineered by an institution, not an individual, and denied any involvement. On June 11, 2004, Sutiyoso cleared Yudhoyono of involvement.

2. Lapindo mudflow disaster: Yudhoyono allegedly protected the family of Coordinating Minister for Social Welfare Aburizal Bakrie from legal prosecution for gross negligence after his family's company, Lapindo Brantas, allegedly caused the eruption of a mud geyser, that has displaced more than 2,000 families, while it was mining for gas in Sidoardjo, East Java, on May 29, 2006. Yudhoyono has repeatedly denied allegations he is protecting the Bakries, who in large part financed his 2004 presidential campaign.

Noted achievements

1. Rooting out corruption at the tax office and the customs and excise office. Yudhoyono fully supported a proposal by Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati to launch a reform of the tax and customs system in mid 2007, which has gone a long way in stopping protracted graft at the offices.

2. Security and political stability. Yudhoyono fully supported Vice President Jusuf Kalla's proposal to end the three-decade separatist conflict in Nangroe Aceh Darussalam in mid 2005 by negotiating with rebel leaders for a peace treaty.

Wealth (As of July 2, 2007)

Rp 7.14 billion and US$44.887


Past controversies

1. BLBI Scandal: No issue taints Boediono other than his alleged involvement in the channelling of Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support (BLBI), which were intended to help keep the banking system afloat during the financial crisis in late 1997. Although allegations of his involvement remain blurred, critics and opposing politicians often blame him for the misuse of Rp 150 trillion (US$15 billion) by bank owners as he was Bank Indonesia (BI) director between 1993 and early 1998. Boediono and BI governor Soedradjad Djiwandono were sacked by former president Soeharto, partly for their actions towards banks owned by the Soeharto family and their cronies. On April 15, 2002, Boediono testified before court in a case involving businessmen Kaharuddin Ongko and Leonard Tanubrata, shareholders of the now-defunct Bank Umum Nasional, over their use of BLBI funds. Mohamad Bob Hasan, a golf buddy of Soeharto, is also a shareholder in the bank. In April 2003, the court dismissed all charges against the businessmen. Soedrajdad was named a suspect by the Attorney General's Office on May 30, 2002. Although the case is on going, Boediono has been cleared of any charges.

2. Proliferating graft at the tax and customs offices: During his tenure as Finance Minister between 2001 and 2004, Boediono had been seen as making less of an effort to clamp down on corruption at the offices. Analysts saw Boediono as being "clean" and honest personally, but failing to ensure the same was true of the institution as a whole.

Noted Achievements

1. During his tenure as finance minister, Boediono was accredited improving the country's macro-economy indicators and mobilizing fiscal policy to stabilize the economy. The economy grew by 5.2 percent in 2004, as compared to 3.32 percent in 2001.

Wealth (As of May 31, 2008)

Rp 18.6 billion and US$10,000

Jusuf Kalla

Past controversies

1. Lapindo mudflow disaster: Kalla and Yudhoyono have allegedly protected the family of Coordinating Minister for Social Welfare Aburizal Bakrie from legal prosecution for gross negligence after his family's company, Lapindo Brantas, allegedly caused the eruption of a mud geyser, that has displaced more than 2,000 families, while it was mining for gas in Sidoardjo, East Java, on May 29, 2006. Kalla has repeatedly denied allegations he is protecting the Bakries, who in large part financed his 2004 vice presidential campaign. Aburizal has contributed the most to Kalla's political rise from a regional player from South Sulawesi to the Vice President and now, a contender for the presidency.

2. China factor: Kalla has spearheaded extensive deals with China related to the construction of power plants as part of the 10,000 megawatt power programs. The plants will be financed by Chinese banks in exchange for the inflow of Chinese steel, materials and manpower for use in several of the construction projects. Critics point out that this directly contradicts Kalla's repeated claims that he is for prioritizing the use of domestically made products.

3. Conflict of interest: Critics and opposing politicians have expressed concern that a conflict of interest exists between Kalla and his business group, NV Hadji Kalla. Kalla's company once imported 12 used helicopters from Germany without going through the proper procedures, leading Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati to confiscate the helicopters in 2006. Kalla said the helicopters were imported to contain forest fires in Sumatra and to help in relief efforts during natural disasters.

Noted achievements

1. Initiating a peace treaty that ended the three-decade separatist conflict in Nangroe Aceh Darussalam in mid 2005 by negotiating with rebel leaders in Sweden.

2. Insisting on the development of infrastructure, including highways, seaports, airports and power plants.

Personal Wealth (as of May 31, 2007)

Rp 253.9 billion and US$ 14,928


Past controversies

1. Wiranto is seen by the international community as being largely responsible for the human rights abuses and organized violence committed in East Timor after an Aug. 30, 1999 referendum demanded independence from Indonesia. Indonesian troops are allegedly responsible for razing large parts of the country after the referendum past. A group of United Nations' experts recommended in early 2003 that East Timor Court summon Wiranto for trial for the human rights abuses committed during this time. Both Wiranto and the Indonesian government have strongly denied the allegations. Wiranto was the Commander of the Indonesian Military cum Defense Minister at that time.

2. Wiranto is also accused of involvement in the riots that took place in Jakarta between May 13 and 15, 1998 and led to the downfall of President Soeharto's 32 year dictatorial rule. He was at the height of a clandestine battle against rival Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto, who was at that time commander of the Army's Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad). Contradicting versions of this power struggle from numerous retired TNI commanders have left the case entirely unresolved. In mid 2004, Wiranto's former junior officer Maj. Gen. (ret) Kivlan Zein blamed Wiranto for letting the riots erupt by preventing Kostrad from restoring order. Wiranto, who was at that time attending a TNI ceremony in East Java, denied the allegation. Wiranto has also been accused of responsibility for the shooting of Trisakti University students during a protest on May 13, 1998. Four students were killed by security forces.

Noted Achievements

1. Preventing a military coup during critical hours after Soeharto's resignation on May 21, 1998.

personal Wealth (As of May 18, 2004)

Rp 46.21 billion


The Jakarta Post Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Special Reports: Track records not a big deal for media: Survey

Erwida Maulia , The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

What would you most want to hear from presidential candidates? Their promises or their past records?

Regardless of the answer, the press - including print media and television - seems to give the public less options.

A recent survey by the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI) shows local print and broadcast media outlets have consistently preferred publishing or broadcasting stories on the campaign activities of the three candidates and their running mates, rather than informing the public of their - in most cases - controversial track records.

Of 2,551 stories covering the presidential election, published between June 16 and 26 in 13 mainstream print media, only 2 percent or 47 stories told the public of the candidates' past performances - far fewer than the 725 reports on candidates' promises.

In TV, less than 4 percent or 61 of 1551 reports aired between May 16 and 25 covered track records, while reports on campaigning amounted to 786 stories.

Newspapers, magazines and TV stations appear to be more interested in publishing or broadcasting reports on candidates' campaign activities, which have been commonly filled with pledges.

Other election-related stories include those on campaign activities by candidates' campaign teams, and on polling preparations and campaign monitoring by the General Elections Commission (KPU) and the Elections Supervisory Body (Bawaslu).

"The stories are mostly about future programs, visions and missions, promises, or what the candidates will do if elected," ISAI program coordinator for advocacy, research and media observance, Ahmad Faisol, said Tuesday.

He added the public would be left largely in the dark about the candidates' track records, because there were far fewer stories about their past.

Unfortunately, no explanation has ever been provided for the reasons behind the inordinately scant coverage of the track records of the candidates.

The print media outlets surveyed included Kompas, Indopos, Seputar Indonesia, Jurnal Nasional, Rakyat Merdeka, Media Indonesia, and Tempo and Gatra magazines.

TV stations surveyed included SCTV, RCTI, Trans TV, Metro TV, TVRI and TV One.


Ex-Generals Crowd Indonesian Presidential Race

Presi Mandari

July 2 (AFP) -- Former generals with murky pasts vying for power in next week's presidential elections are living proof, analysts say, that the ghost of general Suharto is still stalking Indonesian democracy.

Each of the three presidential tickets features a former general who earned his stripes under Suharto, who died last year, and benefited from the military's ongoing place of privilege in Indonesian politics.

The incumbent president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was a senior commander under Suharto and has built an impressive political machine for himself since the dictator's fall in 1998.

Yudhoyono's background is relatively uncontroversial compared with ex-generals Wiranto and Prabowo Subianto, who are the running mates of Golkar party chief Jusuf Kalla and main opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, respectively.

Wiranto, Suharto's last military chief, has been indicted by UN prosecutors for crimes against humanity after the independence referendum in East Timor in 1999. He denies any wrongdoing, calling himself a national hero instead.

Prabowo was Suharto's son-in-law and the loyal commander of the dictator's notorious special forces. He has been accused of abuses in East Timor and staging bloody riots in the last days of the Suharto regime in 1998.

He freely admits to kidnapping democracy activists and has even employed some of his victims as party loyalists in his election campaign.

"We are not a nation of servants, we have pride as a nation. We will see the rise of the Indonesian nation and not an inch of Indonesian territory will be taken (by foreigners)," he shouted during a recent campaign rally.

"We have to change our current system, which is detrimental to the Indonesian people's interests. Our natural resources have been stolen" by foreigners, he added, finishing his speech with hoarse cries of "Independence!"

Loyal supporters enjoy the fist-waving nationalism of Prabowo's stump speeches but opinion polls give Megawati -- the mild-mannered "housewife" of Indonesian politics -- little chance of winning next Wednesday's election.

Some analysts however believe that Prabowo is merely honing his philosophy of national self-reliance and building his profile for another shot at power in 2014.

"I'm afraid he'll become a controversial leader like Ahmadinejad in Iran or Hugo Chavez in Venezuela," Airlangga University political analyst Daniel Sparingga told AFP.

"Prabowo's political concepts are against the existing global system, which relies on cooperation rather than a confrontation."

Wiranto and Prabowo are relics from Suharto's regime, living proof that while the military no longer rules Indonesia directly it is still immensely powerful.

"The military has been, for a long time, the most important institution in providing the nation's leaders," Sparingga said.

"In the political transition from dictatorship to democracy, civil institutions have not been able to provide national leaders. This makes the generals' presence in the political arena inevitable."

The almost total absence of any debate about human rights during the election campaign suggests that most Indonesians don't care about the candidates' records in this regard.

"I don't want to know about that. Those things haven't been proven," 48-year-old Ikbal Mursyid said at an election rally Tuesday when asked about Prabowo's track record.

Prabowo would improve the lot of poor Indonesians and protect the country's natural resources from foreigners, he said.

"I like his personality. He's a charismatic man," the shop-keeper from northern Jakarta said.

Another supporter, Sutina, said one of her relatives was killed in the 1998 riots allegedly masterminded by Prabowo, but she made no connection between those events 11 years ago and the man at the podium.

"I don't understand whether he was responsible for that unrest," the 40-year-old mother-of-two said.

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