The Strengthening of Non-Democratic Wings in Indonesia


The discourse that was blown by several Indonesia national political elites about postponing the presidential election is a dangerous democratic blunder. Moreover, it is also reported that Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, and Andi Widjadjanto, New Head of the National Defense Institute, are involved in developing  the discourse. It is very clear that systematic efforts to extend the presidential term or delay the 2024 presidential election are being rolled out. Worse yet, refering to some of the tempo magazines related to this issue, the initial idea came from state officials and figures who are  not elected by the people who tried to use their power of office to persuade, even pressure, party elites to breathe dangerous discourses on postponing the presidential election.

As a result, well-known names of the caliber of Cak Imin or Muhaimin Iskandar (Chairman of the National Awakening Party/PKB), Zulkifli Hasan (Chairman of the National Mandate Party), and Airlangga Hartarto (Chairman of Golkar), suddenly turn into small class political figures who are unabashedly willing to sacrifice the institutionalization process of Indonesia’s democracy in the name of economic recovery or Covid 19. The three figures is the general chairman of the three major political parties which should be the political foundation as well as the institutional bulwark for the Indonesian people so that Indonesia can consistently continue to consolidate national democracy. With such a background, the discourse that they breathe becomes very dangerous because it has the potential to become a parliamentary political aspiration in the not too distant future.

If the three parties succeed in agreeing to bring the discourse of extending the presidential term or postponing the presidential election to parliament, coupled with the support of other coalition parties which have tended to only sway the palace, then the discourse will turn into policy. In the near future, it may be that the constitution will be amended or the Perpu (special executive order) to postpone the presidential election will be issued by the presidential Palace which will be supported in congregation by the parties in Senayan (Parliament). If this happens, then based on experience during the Jokowi administration, there is no force that can prevent it, including the power of national civil society which has been suspended for a long time.

Indeed, the discourse on adding the presidential term or postponing the presidential election is a discourse that will determine whether Indonesia is still able to survive with the ambition of consolidating democracy or if it is trapped again in the non-democratic abyss of the New Order. If these elites succeed in making one of the two discourses a policy (institutionalized), then their chances of tweaking the process of institutionalizing national democracy will be even greater in the future. In other words, if the president’s term of office is successfully changed to three times, then it is possible that it will also succeed in changing it to four or five times.

That is why this time is crucial for the future of Indonesian democracy. This means, if Luhut or Andi Widjadjanto can prepare systematic steps to postpone the presidential election or extend the presidential term with the support of party elites, then these figures who are not well known as democratic figures do have the power to subdue democratic forces, both inside and outside the government. If that happens, then the seconds for the breath of national democracy to stop are just a matter of time.

The pro-democracy elites together with civil society must demonstrate massive resistance and establish a clear line between the forces of the prostatus quo and the forces of democratic reformers. Because as is well known, both non-party elites such as Luhut and Andi Widjadjanto and political party elites such as Cak Imin, Airlangga Hartarto, and Zulkifli Hasan, are not all figures who have a track record of the struggle for democracy. So it is very understandable why some of them raise the discourse of postponing the presidential election or increasing the term of office of the president and some of them agree on it in the public sphere.

Apart from elites such as Luhut and Andi, whose democratic background has never been seen, the three political parties represented by the three figures above are also not parties that deserve to be called reformist parties today. The Golkar Party is the legacy of the New Order which tried hard to polish itself to be compatible with the post-New Order era. The smell of greed for power is strong in this party with various political justifications, of course. Justifications such as “doing for the people can only be done through the power line” is one of their justifying formulas and continues to be echoed at every democratic election is over. As a result, there is no dream of becoming an opposition in this party at all.

Likewise with the National Awakening Party (PKB) version of Cak Imin. History records that Cak Imin acquired PKB from Gus Dur through an open conflict between the forces who wanted to gain power in the SBY era and the Gurdurian forces who were still very reformist. Luckily for Muhaimin Iskandar, thanks to indirect support from the presidential palace (SBY), pro Gus Dur’s power was weakened and Cak Imin reigns to this day at the top of PKB’s power. In other words, in the hands of Cak Imin, Gus Dur’s version of PKB turned into a Golkar version of PKB which always longed to stay in the boat of power, whoever the ruler was.

Not unlike the PKB, after Amin Rais’s role in the National Mandate Party (PAN) disappeared completely, the leadership period of Hatta Rajasa and Zulkifli Hasan is a period of pragmatic politics for this Party. PAN changed from one of the Reform Movement Party to one that is always looking for opportunities to gain power at the presidential Palace. Today, although it has not been formally allocated seats in Jokowi II’s cabinet, Zulkifli Hasan and PAN have been perceived by the public as screws of presidential palace power. PAN, like Golkar and PKB, has never been critical of the government’s actions to manipulate the KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission) or the ratification of the Omnibus Law. As a result, it is not too surprising if later Zulkifli Hasan became one of the general chairmen of the party who agree with Cak Imin’s singing about the postponement of the presidential election.

An important note that I need to underline from the development of this discourse is that the non-reformist and non-democratic forces have slowly begun to dare to speak out loud in the national public sphere, without being ashamed. This fraction of power is factually not concerned with the existence of Indonesia democracy and the future of national democracy, aka more concerned with and prioritizing the interests of power or the political economy benefits behind it. The options for extending the presidential term and postponing the presidential election were made public, claimed as the aspirations of the people and justified by various survey results.

Some of these elites argued that bringing up the discourse of postponing the presidential election or extending the term of office of the president is part of expressing freedom of opinion in a democracy. But, should discourses that have the opportunity to weaken, and even destroy democracy, also be allowed to roam in the public sphere? I think the answer is no. Then what about Jokowi’s reaction? Jokowi reacted to the development of this discourse with an ambiguous attitude. He rejected the discourse of postponing the presidential election in 2-24 and said he only obeyed the constitution. But Jokowi did not specify his stance if it turns out that the constitution was amended by elites in parliament and extended the president’s term of office to three terms. With that reaction, Joko Widodo could actually become an additional problem for the future of Indonesia’s democracy

Ronny P. Sasmita
Ronny P. Sasmita
Political Economic Observer and Senior Fellow at Economic Action Indonesia Institution/EconAct