Subject: New Order Influence Unlikely to Fade

The Jakarta Globe Friday, July 10, 2009

New Order Influence Unlikely to Fade

photo: A bajaj driver in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, reading about the election results in a newspaper on Thursday. (Photo: Yudhi Sukma Wijaya, JG)

Despite predictions that the current crop of political parties will seek young, fresh politicians untainted by the New Order regime to run in the next presidential election, analysts say the sentiment may amount to little more than wishful thinking.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is widely expected to secure a second term after Wednesday’s poll, would be unable to run in 2014, 16 years after former dictator and kleptocrat Suharto was forced from office, igniting flickers of hope that the country will finally shed itself of its destructive pre-1998 influences.

But Ikrar Nusa Bakti, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), maintains that the influence of the old guard remains strong and very much a part of the fabric of today’s political parties and their leaders.

“Unless there are major internal reforms within the parties, it is highly unlikely that anything will change,” Ikrar said.

He said he feared the new batch of politicians elected into office during the nation’s first truly democratic legislative elections in April, would be tainted by the powerful influence of New Order-era politicians, particularly those who were close to Suharto and his former political vehicle, the Golkar Party.

“The new politicians are bound by the old rules, old ideologies and old systems; otherwise they will be excluded from their parties,” he said.

These senior politicians, he said, now held prominent and powerful positions in almost every political party, including not only Golkar, but new political parties that had managed to secure seats in the House of Representatives.

He singled out not only the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) — the political vehicles, respectively, of controversial former generals Prabowo Subianto and Wiranto, both former members of Golkar — but also Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, which swept April’s elections.

Ikrar said, however, that although 32 years of oppression had weakened the nation after it emerged from the shackles of Dutch imperialism, the country was still maturing.

Andrinof Chaniago, a political expert at the University of Indonesia, said the climate had changed since the start of the reform era in 1998, and if parties wished to remain relevant they had to maneuver wisely.

“That’s why they need fresh faces, people who are seen as incorruptible and idealistic,” he said.

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