Q&A with Djayadi Hanan on Indonesia’s presidential candidates

In a tightening race, leading Indonesian English daily The Jakarta Post openly endorsed Jokowi’s candidacy as president less than a week before the June 9 election.

In the newspaper’s first endorsement in its three-decade history, the Post wrote that Jokowi reflects the values they uphold: a commitment to pluralism, human rights, civil society and reformasi or a break from the New Order regime.

The Conversation’s Jakarta editor, Prodita Sabarini, interviewed Djayadi Hanan, a lecturer and researcher at the International Relations Department of Paramadina University in Jakarta.

Prodita Sabarini: Thank you for joining me Pak Djayadi.

Djayadi Hanan: Thank you for having me.

Candidates’ human rights commitment

Prodita Sabarini: So, The Post has just made this historic endorsement to choose Jokowi for the reasons of human rights and democracy. Prabowo in the first presidential debate has said that he is Indonesia’s toughest human rights defender. What is actually his platform in human rights and democracy and how is it different from Jokowi?

Djayadi Hanan: If we look at the official platform of Prabowo sent by his team to the Indonesian Election Commission, to the best of my knowledge as I look at it, there is no mention about the commitment to human rights issues. There is no mention about whether or not they will uphold all of the issues of human rights in the future or what is their policies related to the human rights violations in the past. From this official platform we don’t know. At least we don’t know whether or not Prabowo is really the defender of human rights.

More important, I think, is his human rights record. We in Indonesia know and he also admitted that, at least during the early days of Indonesian reform era in 1997-1998, during that turmoil Prabowo [was] involved in several of the kidnappings of Indonesian reformasi activists. Some of them are still alive, but some of them, 13 of them, it is not clear where they are right now.

And Prabowo also has been fired from his military career in I think 1998 by the Indonesian TNI (military). That record of human rights violation in the past tells us that Prabowo is somebody who we cannot rely on in terms of upholding the human rights issues.

And if we compare it to Jokowi in his official platform, also sent to the Indonesian Election Commission, there is a clear mention about human rights issues in many areas, including the protection of the human rights of the Indonesian minorities, religious, ethnic and other categorisations. And also the human rights records of Jokowi [is better]- until now there is no record that says that Jokowi has a problem in the past related to human rights issues.

I think if we use human rights issues as the basis of judging both candidates, well we have to say that Jokowi is on the right side, while Prabowo is on the doubtful side.

Can Jokowi keeps his promises?

Prodita Sabarini: Some of Jokowi’s supporters say that they’re supporting Jokowi not necessarily because he’s the best person to do the job but because he’s not Prabowo. And Jokowi’s side is not the cleanest in the room. We have military generals, we have generals implicated in human rights abuses. Given this fact, how feasible would it be for Jokowi to uphold his promises on human rights?

Djayadi Hanan: Yeah, you know in the next five years, human rights should be upheld by the persons who hold the positions. So the first thing we have to have is: the person who holds that position should be clean or should be someone who has no problem, morally, in terms of upholding human rights, including somebody who has no problem in human rights abuses in the past.

So somebody who is the president, he is expected to be the leader in policies related to human rights problems … In the first place, we have to have somebody who is clean.

It is true that on the side of Jokowi, not only related to Prabowo, but also they have their own problems. But at least the president himself, if Jokowi is president, has no moral problems. So he has moral authority in upholding the issues.

Otherwise, if the president cannot be the leader in making the policies, in solving the problem of human rights in the past and also upholding human rights, protection of the minority groups and other issues in human rights, somebody like that will have no authority to do so.

Prodita Sabarini: Would he face challenges, though, from within the party or from within his coalition? Of course his opponent has a big coalition and also within his own party there’s these elements.

Djayadi Hanan: First, of all, the coalition that we have now, that we are seeing now, is the coalition for winning the presidential position. So next, after the presidential election, we will be talking about the governing coalition, which is not necessarily the same as the coalition for winning the presidential election.

So I believe based on my own judgement that if Jokowi is the president, it is true that he needs more support from the parliament. If we count the support from his coalition right now he has only around 40%, so that he needs more than another 10% for making sure that he has a simple majority in the parliament.

But I’m sure if Jokowi wins, at least Golkar will change position. Because of two reasons. Number one, Golkar has never been in the opposition side for all the time. Number two, if Jokowi wins, Jusuf Kalla, the former chairman, the former president of Golkar, will be the vice-president, who I think, I am positive, will try to get more support from his camp in the Golkar side.

So in terms of their political support in the parliament I have no doubt. I don’t worry at all about it, because Jokowi’s coalition will always be able to attract more supporters from the current big coalition.

Number two, you know this is a presidential system that we have if Jokowi still has problems in upholding his agendas - obstructed by the parliament, for instance. He has support from the public. So Jokowi has been known as somebody who has a gifted ability to garner genuine support from the masses, from the lower-level people. So this kind of capability can be used by him to balance the political pressures from the legislative members if he needs to do so.

This strategy is called in political science going public. This strategy has been used so much by many presidents in America or in any other presidential system in the world. SBY, Indonesia’s current president, has always been trying to use this strategy, especially in his second term. But he has no capability to do so. Because when he goes to the public, the public thinks that he just complains, (and is) not asking support from the people. As a result he cannot do that. Maybe he has a problem in terms of political communication.

But I think Jokowi is the person who has the ability to do so, because he has been proving this so far in his government. When he is running the city of Solo government, he solved the problem of street vendors, for instance, which cannot be solved by all of the mayors before him. But he could do it, with a win-win solution both for the government and also for the street vendors themselves.

The same thing happened in Jakarta in, for instance, solving the problem in Indonesia’s probably biggest market, traditional market Tanah Abang. The problem has been there for many decades, no governor so far could solve the problem without a violent solution. But Jokowi could make it work, the street vendors can follow his solution. At the same time the government could manage the way the government should do it.

I think from that kind of track record we know that Jokowi has the ability to garner public support, which can be the balance to the pressure from any sort of political oligarchies in the Indonesian legislature.

Roll-back in direct election reforms?

Prodita Sabarini: At the moment the race is very tight. We don’t know who is going to win. It is possible that Prabowo might win. And he mentioned that Indonesia’s system of direct elections is expensive and that it doesn’t suit Indonesia’s decision-making style of consensus. Some analysts interpret this as a sign that Prabowo will roll back the reforms in the electoral system. So if he wins, is it possible for him to constitutionally change the system again and, if he does so and it comes to a Westminster parliamentary system, is it that bad?

Djayadi Hanan: It is possible for him to do so. But it’s going to be a very long way to go, if he is trying to use all of the constitutional channels that are provided by the Indonesian Constitution so far. For instance, if he wanted to roll back the direct election of the president, the provision of the direct election of the president is stated in our constitution. That means, first thing he has to do is to amend the constitution. And as we in Indonesia know, amending the constitution takes a long time, takes a long process.

First of all, the president needs to convince two-thirds of the parliament that we need constitutional amendment, based on a particular reason - including what is the reason, for instance, if the agenda is to roll back the direct election to non-direct election. So what is the reason for that? So he has to convince that.

After that, then he has to convince also the other chamber in the Indonesian parliament, the Indonesian House of Regional Representatives, kind of like the Senate in America or in Australia. And after that, say if both agree to do so, then the process should be started from a joint session between the Indonesian House of Regional Representative and Indonesian House of Representatives. So, in short, it would take a long time to do so.

But, you know, the thought about the unsuitableness of the direct election of Indonesian public officials is not the thinking of Prabowo only. There are some adherents of this kind of thinking in Indonesia, including in Jokowi’s side and in the former military. So there is some ground for Prabowo to garner support about this, including in his coalition, for instance some groups in Golkar, in Gerindra, think the same way.

On the one side, the institutional and constitutional process to do so will take a long time, but on the other side, there is some ground to do so. But I think, if he really has the agenda of rolling back all of the Indonesian democracy now to go back to the authoritarian era, like in the Suharto era, I think at least it will not be easy.

Beside all those things, we have the civil society in Indonesia which has become very familiar with democratic processes. In terms of direct election, the people have been very familiar with direct elections, of the governors, the mayors, and also direct elections for Indonesian legislative members.

The effort for making, for instance, non-direct elections of the head of local government in Indonesia has also been tried by the Indonesian legislature just recently but the result is that most of the parliamentary members did not agree on revoking direct election of the local government head. If we look at this case, we see the support for rolling back the direct election of the president is not strong. Although it is possible.

Voting day

Prodita Sabarini: In this campaign, we have intense advertising, black campaigns. It’s been carried out by campaign teams, and as a result Prabowo has nearly closed the gap in polls. Now the campaign is over, what do you think will be the determining factor on election day?

Djayadi Hanan: Number one the determining factor will be the turnout. So each side will try any effort to make sure that their supporters go to the polls. I think there is a possibility also that one side will try to obstruct the other side, or the other side’s supporters to come to the polls, with many types of activities, legally or illegally. But the point is that how strong the turnout of the supporters of each side is will determine whether or not he will win this election.

Number two is whether or not there is election fraud both because of the fraud conducted by organisers of the election, or the fraud conducted by the other part of Indonesian government apparatus like the local government apparatus, like the Indonesian police or Indonesian military and so on and so forth. But as long as the bureaucrats are neutral, I think the turnout will be the determining factor because the difference of the winning will be decided by a very slim margin. So each segment of the electorate will be very important.

That’s why the turnout is important and I think I’m anticipating the turnout for this time around will be very high, if we compare it to 2009 election, when the turnout of the Indonesian electorate was around 70%. But now maybe it can achieve near 80%. Maybe it is not impossible to achieve near 80% turnout because of the nature of this election: only two candidates with a very polarised message from both sides, where the people feel very strongly personally, emotionally, about all their own candidates.

That makes them very enthusiastic, very anxious, to make sure that this candidate wins and the other candidate loses. There is sort of the feeling of anxiety from both sides, because of this negative campaign, which has made supporters of each candidate think that if the candidate from the other side wins Indonesia is in danger.

So Jokowi supporters feel or think if Prabowo wins, Indonesia is in danger. On the other side Prabowo’s supporters also think the same way, if Jokowi wins Indonesia is in danger or at least some part of Indonesian society is in danger. So this kind of situation I think made them personally involved, so emotionally attached to the process, that all in all it will make the people eager to go to the polls to make sure that their candidate wins.

Prodita Sabarini: Thank you so much, Pak Djayadi.