The good news

For Good Friday, I thought I’d focus on some good news.

First, the Indonesian parliamentary election is nearly all good news. It’s good news that the election was held at all, and was pretty much free and fair. It’s even more good news that the military no longer holds a block of seats as it did under Suharto. And, generally speaking the results have been encouraging. Militant Islamists did poorly and the success of the Democrat party provides a plausible alternative presidential candidate, Yudhoyono. The unappealing prospect that Wiranto would make a comeback as president seems to be receding.

The earlier elections in Malaysia were also reasonably encouraging is showing little support for radical Islamism. But here, as in Singapore, the system can’t really be called democratic until it has managed a change of government. Surprisingly, Indonesia seems to have surpassed its neighbours in this respect. Given the dire state of affairs a few years ago, with Christian and Islamist militias fighting it out, the military fomenting trouble and Suharto still in the wings, this is an impressive achievement.

4 thoughts on “The good news

  1. John, your upbeat post sort of overlooks the not insignificant fact that Golkar appears likely to take the largest single party vote share…. šŸ™‚

    I agree with your assessment insofar as it’s encouraging to see the democratic process at work, albeit in nascent form. However, Indonesian politics are still very much personality profile-and patronage based with religious affiliation as a powerful adjunct. The notion that political office is primarily about a selective division of the spoils still has powerful adherence. If Megawati has been much other than an historically appropriate and largely mute poster-girl – behind which all manner of personal advantage accrual continues, albeit less nakedly – it’s news to me.

  2. Now Geoff, doesn’t a Latham Australia’s future lie with such poster girls, rather than a Kerry led US? Latham should be able to call on the Indonesian Ambassador, to see if it’s OK to SMS Megawati, to see if it’s OK for Simon to phone her sometime, or something like that. On the other hand, he’ll be able to tell Schieffer, he’s not interested in being part of a conga line of suckholes with a President Kerry.

  3. Don’t be deceived by the product differentiation imperatives of a pre-election campaign, Obs.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a Latham-led Labor government following the same sort of pragmatic, international realpolitik as it’s Hawke/PJK predecessors – and broadly, (leaving Iraq aside for the moment) that’s not markedly different to the current government’s line. Behind the rhetoric lies the reality, etc.

    If Kerry is in the White House it will be fairly seamless. If it’s Bush, the transition will be initially more difficult – but not insurmountable.

  4. “For Good Friday, I thought I’d focus on some good news.” Traditionally this isn’t the good news part, except in the very derivative sense that the resurrection three days later requires the crucifixion on Good Friday and thatGood Friday brings the redemption.

    “First, the Indonesian parliamentary election is nearly all good news.” I think this is more a reflection of your own set of values, and so just as much an error as any neo-conservative projecting his own values onto the bodies of others. I’ll try to show this.

    “It’s good news that the election was held at all…” No, because it reinforces the identity of Indonesia. That’s only arguably a good thing. It comes down to whether “we, the people” is properly defined. Clearly a democratic endorsement of Indonesia would have been wrong while East Timor was occupied, and it is still an open question whether Indonesia properly ought to exist at all, what with its presence in and claim to Aceh, the South Moluccas and West Irian. (This is a different question to whether there would be harmful consequences if it collapsed.) It would have been better to avoid an election that reinforced it until it had come to a separate and justifiable settlement.

    “…and was pretty much free and fair.” No argument there; if it had to be done at all, better not to cheat.

    “It’s even more good news that the military no longer holds a block of seats as it did under Suharto.” Definitely wrong, both pragmatically and in the sense of respecting the parts of the identity. To the extent that Indonesia does have an independent philosophical existence, the military is part of that. It is as proper to respect that as to have a House of Lords or university seats in a House of Commons, or special constituencies for public servants as Victoria once had. It is mere democratic prejudice to insist that only representation of individuals is possible and desirable, and pragmatically unsound to prevent real sources of power from being represented (it weakens the system, not those it marginalises – those, it only denies security).

    “And, generally speaking the results have been encouraging. Militant Islamists did poorly and the success of the Democrat party provides a plausible alternative presidential candidate, Yudhoyono. The unappealing prospect that Wiranto would make a comeback as president seems to be receding.” This is clearly only a description of your own preferences. It is as valid as people claiming the Spanish got it wrong the other day.

    “The earlier elections in Malaysia were also reasonably encouraging is showing little support for radical Islamism. But here, as in Singapore, the system can’t really be called democratic until it has managed a change of government. Surprisingly, Indonesia seems to have surpassed its neighbours in this respect. Given the dire state of affairs a few years ago, with Christian and Islamist militias fighting it out, the military fomenting trouble and Suharto still in the wings, this is an impressive achievement.” Actually, this is only an expression of hypocrisy in action, much like India’s vaunted achievements.

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