Tag Archives: President’s agenda

Indonesia – The President, Awesome Indonesia, and the Red-White Opposition

A year ago on April 9, 2014, Indonesians went to the polls to partake in one of the largest elections in the world, including 560 seats of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR), 128 seats for the People’s Representatives Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, DPD). That election saw no party win enough legislative seats (threshold 20%) or electoral votes (25% national vote) to independently field a presidential candidate. The three months preceding the presidential elections in July 2014 saw intense political horse-trading as the 12 legislative parties weighed options against the possibility of participating in the winning camp. By the time of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s inauguration in October, clear lines had emerged in the legislature: the Awesome Indonesia coalition supporting President Jokowi, comprising the PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle), Nasdem (National Democrat Party), PAN (National Mandate Party), and Hanura (People’s Conscience Party); and the Red-and-White Opposition Coalition supporting defeated presidential-candidate Prabowo Subianto, comprising six other legislative parties, Gerindra (Party Movement Indonesia Raya), Golkar, PKB (National Awakening Party), PKS (Prosperous Justice Party), PPP (United Development Party), and Democratic Party. With the President’s legislative support-coalition clearly in the minority – 207-seats total against the Opposition coalition’s 353 (although these are in flux, as will be discussed later) – it is timely to ask: has the Opposition Coalition affected the President’s political agenda?

Some symbolic and real losses that have occurred, although not all lasted:

Some reversals that have occurred, limiting the real or potential “damage” of the Red-White Opposition:

On balance, then, the President’s agenda appears to be successfully withstanding the Red-White Opposition Coalition. There is reason to believe that the President will be more successful with time: in particular, two parties of the Red-White Opposition Coalition are suffering significant internal rifts that threaten to change their allegiances. Specifically, the PPP and Golkar appear to have split into pro-Red-White and pro-Awesome-Indonesia factions, with leaders of the respective factions each claiming mandate as the real leaders. Pro-Awesome-Indonesia faction leaders have successfully sought the Justice Minister’s intervention; however, the pro-Red-White factions have successfully sought temporary injunctions against the Justice Minister’s decree recognising the opposing-faction with lawsuits at the State Administrative Court (PTUN). The PTUN has yet to make a final ruling, but has suspended the Justice Minister’s decree recognizing the pro-Awesome-Indonesia faction leaders of the two parties.

Whether the Awesome Indonesia coalition grows from 207 to 246 (with the PPP) or even 337 (with the addition of PPP and Golkar) remains to be seen. One way or another, with the reinstatement of direct local elections for this July, resolutions for the parties – and, consequently, for the respective pro-President and Opposition Coalitions – are not far-off.

Taiwan – Public support, corruption, and the President

A recent survey in Taiwan shows that even as the government has earned points across several measures capturing performance on human-rights and liberties– such as enhancing religious freedoms, electoral freedoms, and freedom of movement – it suffers on the issue of corruption control. On that front, the government received a score of 1.8 out of 5 – the lowest among the survey-questions – indicating substantial dissatisfaction with the government in the control of corruption.

What has this to do with the President? In particular, given that President Ma is constitutionally prohibited from running for another term, is public support a meaningful constraint on president’s agenda or powers?

In two regards, the answer is: Yes.

First, public support affects the legislative success of a president. In particular, studies show that presidents’ legislative success is highly tied to public satisfaction.[1] That is, legislatures are highly sensitive to public approval of the president in passing the president’s bills, so that a low public approval may signal a legislature’s greater willingness to challenge the president’s policy agenda. It is probably not surprisingly that legislators are even less constrained to toe the president’s lines when faced with a term-limited president in the final term. Thus, in terms of pushing his policy agenda, notwithstanding his final term as President, it behoves President Ma to pay attention to public approval and, correspondingly, the issues that engender public disapproval.

Second, the particular area of public disaffection – corruption – should also be a source of concern for the President. Corruption – defined as the failure to exercise impartiality of government authority [2] – has galvanized widespread protests in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia, and studies show that it is at the root of the Colored Revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia.[3] As an emergent democracy, Taiwan can ill-afford such protests that take time, effort, and other resources away from the key tasks of institution-building and policy-performance upon which political and social stability – not to mention democratic consolidation – rests.[4] Again, it behoves President Ma, who has seen his share of protests this year, to take clear steps in demonstrating efforts at controlling corruption to avert its potential to galvanize protests.

Interestingly, the survey was commissioned by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, whose current chair is Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng. That is the same Speaker embroiled in the ongoing and public political dispute with President Ma Jing-yeou since September, 2013, when the President moved to expel Wang from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party – which would also end Wang’s position as speaker – for alleged influence-peddling. Wang has won public sympathy as well as a court injunction against his ouster from the legislature, pending the outcome of his legal battle against the KMT’s decision to revoke his membership. In contrast, the President has seen his approval plummet as a result of the case, partly due to public suspicion of wiretapping used as evidence for the case, the President’s overstepping of constitutional separation of powers in Taiwan’s semi-presidential system, and Ma’s discharge of a rival.