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Southeast Asia

Indonesia Election 2014

Igor Dirgantara

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From November 2013 to January 2014,  Faculty of Social and Politics, University of Jayabaya (UJ), periodically conducted surveys related to the electability of the political parties and the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the 2014 elections.

The results show that the electability of the Democratic Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) have been decreasing following corruption cases. The survey was conducted in 33 provinces by taking a sample of 1225 people which have the right to vote (aged 17 years and over. or not yet 17 years old but already married). The margin of error is + / – 2.8% and the confidence level is 95%. Population Data were collected through interviews withrespondents using techniques based on the questionnaire.

When asked whether the respondents still believe that the PKS is a “clean party”, about 66% said “not sure”. Only 15.7% of respondents believe that the PKS is still a “clean party”, the rest (18.3%) did not know. When asked whether the party of which the cadres are most involved in corruption cases, as many as 67.3% of respondents mentioned the Democratic Party. PKS came in as distant second at 5.8% and has taken over from Golkar Party. which is now mentioned as third (5.2%). When I asked respondents, the party to be selected if elections wereheld today.only 6.9% would vote for the Democratic Party. Only 2.6% would vote for PKS, much lower than their result in 2009, which was 8%.

In terms of electability, the Golkar Party remained in the top position with 18.9%. When referring to the results of a survey of various other research institutions, Golkar’s chance to win the 2014 election seems pretty open. The Golkar Party is still being followed by PDI-P with a rate of 16.8% electability. Gerindra, which in the 2009 elections ended in eighth place, according to my survey electability has now reached the level of 10.3% and is in third place.

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The high electability of the Golkar Party is apparently inversely proportional to chairperson Aurizal Bakrie (ARB), which is in a fifth position as presidential candidate, at 8.7%. This is far below JokoWidodo (Jokowi) which ranks as the first public option among the most potential candidates (15,1 %).

Jokowi is a symbol of new hope for the people. He is simple, honest and populist. Jokowi is showing togetherness between the leaders and the led. “He is one of us”. Jokowi quite successfully managed to bring himself to the public with a policy in which he often visits slums in Jakarta. If in the United States (U.S.) people were disappointed with the war on terrorism of President Bush and elected Barrack Obama, it is possible that if Jokowi steps forward as a 2014 presidential candidate, Indonesian people will chose him because of their disappointment overthe war on corruption under President SusiloBambangYudhoyono during the second period from 2009 to now.

On average, respondents said they agree that if Jokowi would run for the presidency, and would not be concerned if Jokowi did not finish the job until his term as Jakarta Governor until 2017. Only 26% of respondents would not agree. Jokowi, who is PD1-P cadre.also received support from other party voters. For example, 26% of Golkar voters would choose Jokowi, as would 33.5% of Democratic Party voters, 13.8% of Gerindra voters, 35.1% of Hanura voters, 35.1%, 26.7% of PAN voters and 59.5% of PKS voters. The passing away of MPR Chairman Taufik Kiemas of the PDI-P should open the possibilities for younger party cadre, such as Jokowi in order to get a maximum results. instead of proposing the older chairperson MegawatiSoekarnoputri as candidate.

PRABOWO SUBIANTO VS JOKOWI
Jokowi electability level surpasses its competitors. The nearest is only Prabowo Subianto (13,9%). If the 2014 presidential election took place in two rounds where Jokowi would go head to head with Prabowo. But Prabowo Subianto and Gerindra Party requires extra efforts to get support from other parties to form a coalition. For that he continued his guerrilla to garner support. Of whom he had met were Hatta Rajasa, Chairman of the PAN, and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Chairman of the Democratic Party (PD). He was also diligent in communicating with a number of leaders of other parties, including the PDI-P. As a presidential candidate, Prabowo fits the bill on a number of levels. He was Megawati’s running mate in her unsuccessful 2009 campaign, and he will have learned much from that. His reputation feeds the belief that Indonesia needs a return to assertive leadership, while his association with the former first family strikes a chord among the cross section of Indonesians who feel let down by democracy and who harbour a genuine nostalgia for the Suharto era.

It would be very interesting if the two favored public figures then do not get tickets in contestation. Other figures will be born. The names that are under them will pop up, among them, Megawati, Bakrie, Hatta Rajasa, Dahlan Iskan, Mahfud MD, Jusuf Kalla, and so on. If that happens, a new candidate will emerge. Proponents of Jokowi and Prabowo Subianto will be disappointed, some will survive to follow the motion of the party, and others will move wildly following their own logic. The figures that follow PD convention will have an opportunities. Related to the Partai Demokrat’s convention, State Minister for State Owned Enterprises, Dahlan Iskhan, still chairing the convention, followed by Pramono Edhi Wibowo, Gita Wirjawan, Anis Baswedan, and Dino Patti Djalal.  It is very likely that Democratic Party will step down from their status of incumbent in the next general election of 2014. If their kept their position as the top 3, there will still be a chance to nominate their convention winner as presidential candidate – even though if they need to do a coalition with other parties. If not, then whoever picked as their candidate will only be feasible to be a potential vice president candidate.

Currently, the candidates are not dealing with incumbent or a candidate supported by the ruling party. Even the two names, Jokowi and Prabowo, come from the opposition party. There is excitement to correct public policy or seek a different atmosphere from the color of the current ruler. These two figures represent the antithesis of SBY. Jokowi is a rustic figures, common people, not handsome, simple, informal, and so on. This contrasts with SBY; handsome, elegant, charming, and formalistic. While Prabowo represent nationalistic thinking, assertive, and pro-people – at least as his speech. This is in contrast with the image of SBY who over consider the interests of the world and foreign investors, closer to the elite, and too cautious in decision making.

All of this indirectly answers the two questions at the beginning. The 2014 presidential election is not as simple as one might imagine, especially over the spread of electability numbers of various polls. The numbers are not fully pro Jokowi. Still, there is a possible rise of surprises. First, if the Court annulled the candidacy requirement of 20 per cent to three per cent. Secondly, if there is a mistake of Jokowi as governor and his supporters. The fanatical supporter’s attitude as shown in the world of social media and the birth of Pro Jokowi movement has a weak point of its own. Third, if a figure exists that could encapsulate all the expectations of the voters. Prabowo Subianto, who has a handicap in the past, was accepted because he carries this message. This expectation is also reflected in the high popularity of Dahlan Iskan and Jusuf Kalla. Still, the popularity of the President also shows that the public wants harmony, order, and decency. On the other hand, the public is still easily swept away by advertising and traditional loyalty. The color of pragmatism is a reality that remains in any society.

PROGRAM PARTY

Based on the findings the Survey, people crave the emergence of an alternative leadership figure. The people like leaders who have a love of integrity, and who are honest. clean. populist, and have a strong commitment to the reform agenda. such as the eradication of corruption. and a good track record. The people would consider a candidate who has the ability to solve national problems, especially economic problems.

Results from various surveys taken, Prabowo Subianto, electability-wise, is by far the strongest competitor for Jokowi. According to media monitoring, including social media, that the writer did, it was obvious that Prabowo – as well as Jokowi – is the leader figure that the people are talking about. Prabowo’s popularity able to counterbalance that of Jokowi’s. The public perceive Prabowo as a firm and bold figure. Not only that, he is also considered have the capability to solve Indonesia’s chronic problems, which are corruption, poverty, and security. Prabowo is being assessed as a candidate with the clearest and definite vision and mission compared to others, especially the one that related to his “Ekonomi Kerakyatan” programme, like the one of 1 billion fund policy for every village in Indonesia if he were to be elected as the next President come 2014. Prabowo clearly supported by Gerindra party as their 2014 Presidential Candidate, whereas Jokowi, who still leads other 2014 presidential candidates’ electability, at the moment still waiting for a certainty to be nominated as his party’s, PDI Perjuangan, presidential candidate, or still waiting for the official final decision to be made by the PDIP’s chairperson, Megawati Soekarnoputri. Meanwhile, the main problem for Prabowo centers on whether Gerindra will be able to breakthrough the 20 percent parliamentary threshold required, in order to avoid being forced to do a coalition with other parties and be able to nominate their own candidate(s). Moreover, nominating Prabowo Subianto as their presidential candidate is a must for them. If Gerindra able to achieve 20 percent of legislative slots, then the next strategy, which will be crucial, for Prabowo is his eye in choosing the perfect companion for the vice president position, who would be able to widen the public’s support for him.

In general, the results of the survey show several trends:
First, there is a real possibility that the Democratic Party will be replaced as the largest political party by Golkar or PDI-P. The apparently never ending internal conflicts on the alleged involvement of some party leaders in a number of cases of corruption is hijacking the Democratic Party and this could last into next year. This is not to mention the issue of dynastic politics, of which President SBY is often criticized. Therefore.the desire of the Democratic Party by the President SBY to hold the Democratic convention later in the month of July-August 2014 could be interpreted as an effort to increase the popularity and electability.

Second,  the political map in the House of Representatives will likely become much simpler due to the decreasing number of political parties that will achieve national parliamentary seats, as the parliamentary threshold is increased from 2.5 to 3.5 percent.
Third, it is possible that the largest political party will not get morethan 30 percent. so that seats are more evenly distributed over all parties participating in the elections. Indonesian voters make their choice based more on emotion. For either party with a good image or able to improve its image, there is an abundance of opportunities from swing voters. But parties of which the image is damaged by “cases”, will likely lose disproportionally. PDI-P and Golkar Party tend to have a stable electorate.

Fourth, there is the possibility that Islamic and Islamic-based political parties (National Mandate Party -PAN, the National Awakening PartyPKB , the Prosperous Justice Party – PKS. the Crescent Star Party – PBB and the United Development Party-PPP) will be eliminated in the 2014 election. Factors are public policy mistakes made by these parties, and the absence of presidential candidates or high profile leaders. The declining of electability of Islamic parties could bring about “poros tengah” (central axis) discourse a coalition between Islamic parties, considering there are still potentials of votes from Indonesian population that are mostly Muslims.

Fifth, the 2014 election is the momentum of the transition generation. Currently only the PDI-P and the Democratic Party give ample space for the emergence of young leaders in 2014. About 40-70% of the productive age group (18-40 years) who become potential voters want change in 2014. and this is reflected in the orientation and preferences of those who like the new lc,ider figures. The Democratic Candidates convention November 2013-March 2014 has a chance to end the gerontocracy (rule led by the majority of the elderly) in Indonesia. In the 2014 general election, there will be a potential of novice voters, in which most of them consist of young people and used to using the internet, as big as 40 percent of the total voters. Therefore, campaign using “cyber warrior” and social media could be the more effective way to generate their votes.

Sixth, is the tendency of those who do not use their right to vote in the upcoming election (abstentions). This is also reflected in the considerable number of swing voters, i.e. those who do not or not yet provide a political choice (undecided voters). It is also visible in a floating mass who are disappointed in the current ruling political parties and in thetransactional politics (horsetrading). The young people are seen to have the ability and integrity, and candidates matter more than political parties.

Seventh,  politics is always concerned with probabilities. Therefore, manuvers, strategy, and the choice of political party elites will remain crucial in the 2014 election beyond the limits in the program and the issues or platforms of each party. In this context, the practice of money politics will still be used to expand support, followed by highly flexible political manuevering to serve the needs and intrests of the parties and their leaders.

Igor Dirgantara is Lecturer at Faculty of Social Politics, University Jayabaya, Jakarta, and Director Survey & Polling Indonesia (SPIN).

Southeast Asia

Malaysia’s Efforts in Improving Education: Lessons for Developing Countries

MD Staff

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Image from the Malaysian Times

Malaysia’s efforts to tackle education challenges, particularly through the establishment of a ‘delivery unit’ that tracks results, can help other countries seeking to improve implementation in the sector, says a new World Bank report.

The report, Improving Education Sector Performance: Lessons from the Delivery Unit Approach, highlights the role of the Education Performance and Delivery Unit, or PADU, under the Ministry of Education, in improving education outcomes, a key government priority.

The report examines how PADU facilitated program implementation and delivery of results through the Literacy and Numeracy Screening program, or LINUS. Unlike other interventions, the LINUS task force – comprised of several divisions – worked closely with agencies across government to provide an effective framework for coordination, tracking, monitoring and reporting.

“Following the World Bank’s analysis of the LINUS approach, we are glad to share the approach with other countries seeking to improve education outcomes,” said Dato’ Seri Mahdzir bin Khalid, Minister of Education. “As we progress, we will constantly refine ways of delivery and continue to engage relevant institutions such as the World Bank to gather feedback and improve implementation.”

The Government Transformation Program, announced in 2009, set improving education outcomes as a key priority, and a detailed plan in the Malaysian Education Blueprint followed.  Making improving education outcomes a national priority can elevate the profile, stakes, and resourcing for the initiative. Building in evaluations of impact into the program design would further bolster efforts to improve education outcomes.

“The delivery of the essentials of a thriving nation – better schools, healthcare, public transportation – is a mutual goal of all nations, but implementation is a common challenge. The delivery unit approach taken by Malaysia is a creative and effective way to address this challenge,” said Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Group Representative to Malaysia. “This report distills useful lessons learnt in improving the performance of its education sector, and makes recommendations to bring Malaysia one step closer towards its aspirations of becoming a high-income country.”

The study is the latest installment in the World Bank Group’s Outbound Knowledge Report Series that curates, distils and disseminates Malaysia’s development experience. This report is part of the Malaysia Development Experience Series, which strives to capture key learnings from Malaysia that are relevant for developing countries around the globe as they transition out of poverty and into shared prosperity.

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Southeast Asia

Asia’s dark underbelly: Conflicts threaten long-term stability and development

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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A host of conflicts, stretching across the Asian landmass from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and northwest China, are likely to spark violence, complicate economic development, and dash hopes for sustainable stability.

The conflicts and tensions range from ethnic strife in Kurdish areas of Syria and Iran, mortally wounded Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, embattled Baloch nationalism in Pakistan, disposed Rohingya in Southeast Asia, and widespread discontent in Iran, to iron-grip repression in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Xinjiang. Individually and collectively, they promise to create black swans and festering wounds that threaten economic growth and social development.

Stripped to their bare essence, the conflicts and tensions have one thing in common: a quest for either cultural, ethnic or national, or political rights or a combination of those, that governments not only refuse to recognize but are willing to suppress with brutal force.

Repression and military action are designed to suppress political, ethnic and/or national, and economic and social grievances in the false belief that a combination of long-term suppression and economic development will weaken ethnic and/or national and political aspirations as well as undermine dissent.

That is true in case of the Rohingya and Uyghurs as well as for brutal repression in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and northwest China, and military actions such as the Turkish intervention in Syria’s Afrin.

Problems in the Middle East and South Asia are aggravated by a debilitating struggle for regional hegemony between Saudi Arabia and Iran that threaten to destabilize the Islamic republic and Pakistan, have already produced a devastating war and a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, and are dragging the Horn of Africa into its orbit.

If history teaches anything, it is that only a minority of autocrats have achieved economic and social development. General Augusto Pinochet ensured that Chile is the only South American member of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), albeit at a high human cost, while Asia gave birth to tigers like South Korea and Taiwan.

Moreover, Asia’s multiple conflicts and tensions do not distract from the fact that by and large, the continent is flourishing economically.

History, however, also teaches that ethnic and/or national aspirations explode with vehemence the moment opportunity arises. Seventy years of communist rule in the Soviet Union failed to smother nationalist sentiment in parts of the empire like Chechnya and the Caucasus or erase nationalist differences between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Forty-seven years of communism did not prevent nationalist sentiment from breaking Yugoslavia apart in a series of bloody wars in the 1990s in the wake of the demise of the Iron Curtain.

Carved out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire, modern Turkey has failed to erase demands for Kurdish cultural, if not ethnic or national aspirations, through economic development and political integration based on the principle of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the visionary who founded the republic, that “happy is he who is a Turk.”

Similarly, Palestinian nationalism is alive and kicking 51 years into Israeli occupation of lands conquered during the 1967 Middle East war.

The aftermath of the 2011 Arab popular revolts, involving a concerted counterrevolution co-engineered by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, has laid bare the essence of current conflicts and disputes: a determination of regimes to impose policies on minorities or states at whatever cost.

The UAE-Saudi-led diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar is a case in point as are Asia’s multiple ethnic conflicts. They erupt in a world in which post-colonial borders are being called into question in countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar and Pakistan.

The Rohingya, amid the dizzying array of ethnic and national conflicts stretching from the Middle East or West Asia to China in the East, exemplify the problem in, perhaps, its purest form. Potentially, the Rohingya could become Southeast Asia’s Palestine.

What makes the Rohingya unique is the fact that their aspiration, unlike Palestinians, Kurds, Baloch or Uyghurs, does not involve attachment to a specific piece of land despite a centuries-old history in the Myanmar state of Rakhine. That is also what potentially enables creative thinking about a solution that could open the door to innovative thinking about a multitude of other conflicts.

To many Rohingya, lingering in abysmal conditions in Bangladesh’s Cox Bazaar, after some 650,000 fled repression and terror in Myanmar, securing a sense of belonging on whatever territory that guarantees them protection from persecution as well as economic and social development, is more important than returning to an uncertain existence in Rakhine state. “All I want, is a place to which I can belong,” one refugee said.

Few Rohingya, analysts and officials believe that an agreement that in theory allows Rohingya in Bangladesh to return to Rakhine state will solve the problem. Even if the Rohingya were allowed to return in significant numbers, something that many doubt, nothing in Myanmar government policies and statements suggests that they would be anything more than a barely tolerated, despised ethnic group in a country that does not welcome them.

The makings of a Palestine-like conflict that would embroil not only Myanmar but also Bangladesh and that could spread its tentacles further abroad are evident. In a rare interview with Al Jazeera, Mohammed, a spokesman for the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) using a false name, predicted that suicide bombings constitute the next phase of their effort to secure a safe and stable existence.

The Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation, a charity associated with Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of South Asia’s deadliest groups, claimed in December that it had established operations in Rakhine state where it had distributed blankets and cash.

“We attacked them (the Myanmar military) because they refuse to give us our basic rights as citizens. Again and again, [the] Myanmar government lies to the world. They say they treat us well and give us rights, but they don’t. We are unable to travel from one place to another. We are not allowed to run a business. We are not allowed to go to university. The police and military use various way to suppress us. They beat, torture and humiliate us. That is why we decided to stand up,” Mohammed said.

Preventing the Rohingya issue from spiralling out of control and becoming a problem that can no longer be contained to a specific territory, much like the multitude of similar conflicts, disputes, and repression-based regime survival strategies across Asia, requires out-of-the box thinking. Short-term repression and efforts to impose one party’s will at best buys time and sets the scene for avoidable explosions.

With out-of-the-box thinking a rare commodity, nationalism and protectionism on the rise, and regimes, emboldened by an international community unwilling to stand up for basic rights, able to go to extremes like the use of chemical weapons against rebels in the Syrian province of Idlib, long-term prospects for stable and secure development in Asia are dimmed and potentially threatened by predictable black swans.

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Southeast Asia

Our teachers need a stern lesson

Rattana Lao

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Outspoken Thammasat graduate Rattana Lao has very definite ideas on how to reform the education system. (Photo courtesy Ms Rattana)

It is no surprise that our local news reports on education have usually been replete with how bad the Thai learning system is.

From a national perspective, the country’s recent Ordinary National Educational Test (O-Net) test results for Grade 12 students reveal the average scores are below par in all subjects. The only subject that the average score is higher than 50% in is Thai language. This does not mean the average quality of students’ Thai language competence is high or adequate.

The World Bank’s report provides a bleak picture of the level of Thai language attainment among students. Its report states that 32% of 15-year-old students in Thailand are “functionally illiterate”. This means their reading comprehension is so poor that they barely understand what they read, hence they even struggle to survive or cope with menial jobs.

When it comes to an international comparison, Thai students are falling behind their peers in Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. This is most evident in the Programme for International Students Assessment (Pisa) which evaluates the ability of randomly selected 15-year-old students to attain scientific literacy, reading literacy and mathematics literacy. Sadly, for the past 10 years, Thailand’s performance in the Pisa test has never met the world standard. The average 15-year-old Thai student is 1.5 years academically less competent than their peers in Vietnam.

Thai educators are well aware of how bad the system is. For decades, considerable energy, attention and resources have gone into education reform in order to revamp the system. However, the system has not changed much. Since the National Education Act was promulgated in 1999, the system is still heavily centralised and overtly unequal resulting in low academic achievement of students.

One of the main problems of the Thai education system is the rampant rote learning pedagogy. Thai classrooms apply a top-down approach that lacks interactive engagement with students. Teachers stand in front of the class with the expectation to know it all and be the masters of knowledge, while students are given limited engagement and thus show little enthusiasm.

To make matters worse, teachers are not always present in class. The Quality Learning Foundation reported that Thai teachers spend more than 42% of their time outside the classroom.

Worst of all, Thai schools are overloaded with demanding curriculums. Students are expected to know so many topics without being provided with substantive explanation or examples of difficult concepts. They are expected to learn through memorisation rather than understanding, or acquisition of knowledge.

In the recent bi-annual meeting of Anandamahidol scholars, Charas Suwanwela, President of the Education Reform Committee appointed by the current government, offers a compelling insight to the reform process. He highlighted why the two decades of education reform do not produce the needed result and what needs to be done.

Firstly, our education system must shift from a top-down approach to a bottom-up one. By all standards, the Thai system needs greater decentralisation. Reformers of the 1999 National Education Act were aware of this and put decentralisation at the forefront. However, realistically speaking, most — if not all — decisions and resource allocations still depend largely on the discretion of the Ministry of Education, which is heavily bureaucratised and highly hierarchical. Such reliance and dependency has limited the ability of educational service areas to be able to perform.

“To successfully implement any kind of reform, such effort must be bottom up where everyone owns it. As things stand, nobody is accountable for educational problems in Thailand. We all blame each other but nobody takes charge of how things must change”, Mr Charas said.

Greater participation of the public and private sectors is needed. For so long, educational responsibility has belonged to the state, which leaves the rest of the society inert and irresponsible for change. But education is the responsibility of every party: The state, schools, families, private sectors, communities and even temples. Everyone must participate to make a difference.

Second, there must be a renewed sense of hope for teachers and students.

“Teachers and students must be empowered to become active agents. For teachers, they must be motivated to constantly acquire new knowledge to inform and inspire students. While specialisation teachers in all subjects are needed, we do not have the resources to do so. Therefore, teachers must be eager and empowered to improve themselves”, Mr Charas said.

The heart of it all, however, is that students must be awakened. In the new era of digital technology, students cannot rely on top-down, rote learning and memorisation as the method of education. They must learn to be digitally literate so that they can acquire information on their own. A digital revolution is needed for students to learn online, on-air and on the ground.

Third, education reform must take the issue of inequality seriously. Prasarn Trairatvorakul, National Economic Reform Chairman, recently shared his vision of the state-run Equitable Education Fund that aims to address educational disparity.

“A new law is being drafted to mobilise [financial] resources from national budgets, donations and lottery profits to create an Equitable Education Fund in order to mitigate educational inequality,” Mr Prasarn said.

“The annual educational budget is around 500 billion baht. This new law will propose that 5% of that will be allocated precisely to offer educational resources to support the most marginalised and underprivileged in the country. Starting from early childhood education, this new fund aims to offer financial supports for students up to upper secondary schools.”

The system cannot be overhauled overnight. However, with vision, collaboration and real commitment, there is a beaming light of hope that education in Thailand might improve over time.

First published in Bangkok Post, repost under author’s permission

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