Tuesday, 12 November 2019

A Dangerous Impasse

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The idea to revive the State Policy Guidelines (GBHN) is a betrayal of democracy. Proposed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) at its August congress in Bali, the return of the GBHN would be realized through an amendment to the 1945 Constitution. This change would return our nation to authoritarianism.

    This initiative seems to be increasingly serious. The People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) speaker for the 2014-2019 period, Zulkifli Hasan, has handed over the draft amendment to be deliberated by the MPR this session. PDI-P Chair Megawati Sukarnoputri is ready for the necessary political maneuvers. She supported Bambang Soesatyo for the position of MPR speaker on the condition that he was willing to amend the constitution.

    All political parties should think again about bringing back the GBHN. It would result in the loss of the democratic principle of a bottom-up development planning mechanism. Since the 1998 reformasi, development planning has been done in stages, from the village to the national level to accommodate people’s opinions. This mechanism is laid down in Law No. 25/2004 on the National Development Planning System.

    The GBHN is more suited to an authoritarian regime like the New Order. These state guidelines could be implemented without any obstacles, and could even be spelled out in more detail in the Five-year Development Plan. This also happened under President Sukarno. After dissolving the Constitutional Assembly and proclaiming guided democracy in 1959, he implemented the Universal National Development Plan.

    With rigid state guidelines, the direction of development is entirely in the hands of the government. The people are simply spectators. In the past, state guidelines have been used by many communist countries to allow governments to control, and even dominate the people.

    Another consequence of the return of the GBHN would be that the president would receive his or her mandate from the MPR – a principle that was abandoned along with the New Order. This would make direct presidential elections irrelevant and would upset the whole presidential system. What would be the point of directly electing a president if he or she would have to abide by the GBHN and would be unable to keep promises made to the voters?

    It is no surprise that many political observers believe that the GBHN is only the gateway to much bigger changes. Another plan might be the election of the president by the MPR. Some politicians have even spoken of an amendment to change the presidential term to seven or eight years with no re-election allowed. If this happened, it would benefit President Joko Widodo. He could be re-elected because his two terms would not be counted under the new system.

    President Joko Widodo should not be tempted by this and allow political maneuvering that overturns the constitution. PDI-P’s excuse that the GBHN is needed to stop radical ideology makes no sense. Religious radicalism grows and spreads if the law is not enforced. And the GBHN could, in any case, be changed if a party supporting radicalism took control of the MPR.

    In other words, it is difficult not to suspect that behind the plan to revive the GBHN is a desire to shackle democracy by taking advantage of democracy. Power would return to the political parties and the right of the people to determine the direction of government would end. If this is true, then we must all oppose this plan.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine