Farewell to the Opposition

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  • President Joko Widodo or Jokowi (right) shakes hands with Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Friday, October 11, 2019. TEMPO/Subekti

    President Joko Widodo or Jokowi (right) shakes hands with Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Friday, October 11, 2019. TEMPO/Subekti

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Prabowo Subianto should look in the mirror before asking the public to beware of the danger of oligarchies after he visited the Golkar Party office last week. If it is true that the Gerindra Party is to join the government of Joko Widodo – Prabowo’s opponent in the presidential election – it is he and the party elites that now hold the reins of power that we must be worried about.

    With Gerindra coming on board, the Jokowi-Ma’ruf regime will have an extraordinary majority in the House of Representatives (DPR). Only the Justice and Prosperity Party will be outside the government coalition. This means that for the first time since the end of the New Order, we will have a government with only very weak opposition.

    This is a dangerous trend. Without opposition, there will be none of the important checks and balances to ensure that government policy is kept under tight control. It will be difficult for the parties supporting the government coalition to be critical.

    This is what happened during the government of President Suharto. The DPR functioned merely as a rubber stamp body to approve government policy. It was difficult for the DPR to implement its other functions properly, particularly oversight. A unified voice from the Palace and Senayan will be the end of liberal democracy in this nation.

    Ironically, this worrying development has occurred during the administration of Joko Widodo, the first president to come from the common people, rather than the elite that has long dominated the positions of power in Jakarta. He is like a child of democracy that has rebelled and abandoned its own mother.

    Moreover, President Jokowi is wrong if he believes that the consolidation of political parties in the government coalition will strengthen his administration. On paper, this might be true but look at the second administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He was supported by six political parties controlling almost 70 percent of the vote in Senayan. However, since the first year, Yudhoyono came under continuous attack over the bailout of Bank Century.

    Yudhoyono made the same mistake as Jokowi. He made huge political concessions to the parties supporting him and accommodated politicians in his cabinet. The result was not political stability, but a cabinet that was slow and difficult to control. The ministers from political parties seemed to be more loyal to the leadership of their respective parties.

    Therefore, rather than sharing out ministerial posts to the parties, Jokowi would do better to fill his cabinet with more professionals – who are competent and have integrity, of course. There is no need to work so hard to embrace many parties that will lead to later problems for him.

    Jokowi really must realize that democracy is not simply a mechanism to achieve political consensus. Democracy needs dissension to continuously improve itself. This way, the presence of opposition is a way to nurture democracy itself.

    The intrigues in over the last week surrounding the entry of the Gerindra Party and Democrat Party into the pro-government coalition are bound to have demoralized many of Jokowi’s supporters. The inclusion of Prabowo in the cabinet is a negative signal to the people who voted for Jokowi because they did not agree with the proposals put forward by Prabowo.

    The establishment of a government without an opposition also ignores the debates over campaign promises during the presidential campaign. The two sides who offered programs that were often directly opposed to each other are now working together. It is as if the political aspirations of millions of voters have been tossed in the trash can.

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