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‘Anis and Anas’: A controversial tale of two parties

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    http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/02/18/anis-and-anas-a-controversial-tale-two-parties.html ‘Anis and Anas’: A controversial tale of two parties
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 18, 2013
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      ‘Anis and Anas’: A controversial tale of two parties

      Aboeprijadi Santoso, Amsterdam | Opinion | Mon, February 18 2013, 11:57 AM

      Paper Edition | Page: 6

      The Year of the Snake has begun with what seems to be bad omens for two leading Indonesian political parties. The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Democratic Party (PD) have attempted to resolve long-standing graft problems by changing their leadership.

      The PKS has in recent years changed from a clean, disciplined and spirited party inspired by the ideals of the Islamic Brotherhood (Ikhwanul Muslimin) into an “open” political party and now a “corrupt” one.

      The arrest of its chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq has placed the party in dire straits. Shocked and embarrassed at appearing hypocritical, the PKS appointed a new leader from among the party establishment: Anis Matta, an ambitious member who quickly moved to deal with the party’s tainted image.

      Like the PKS, the PD, founded in 2004, is worried about its election prospects in 2014. A conglomerate of bureaucrats, former officers and activists, the PD saw its electability sharply decline following the ongoing graft scandal that has implicated its chairman.

      Pressed by the party’s top brass, chief patron Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono finally and surprisingly chose to take over the party’s leadership.

      Yet, in doing so, the ever-cautious Yudhoyono actually left the party on the hook, waiting yet again for a quick and clear solution and leaving chairman Anas Urbaningrum seriously challenged.

      The responses of Anis — the rising star of the PKS — and Anas — the PD chair-in-disgrace — are significant. Referring to the dangers faced by Sengkuni, a legendary (albeit cynical) Javanese figure, Anas, even before his demise, warned the chief patron and his constituents of the consequences of his ouster, as he still controls at least a third of the regional party leaders. Sengkuni, a mischievous adviser often compared to Metternich, is used here in a pejorative sense, but Anas, a Javanese, apparently feeling humiliated, added another coded message: “Ojo dumeh!” Please, don’t be arrogant.

      Anis, a devout Buginese Moslem, on the other hand, spoke of a “Zionist conspiracy” — obviously, a ridiculous accusation — and urged party members to act like prophets arising victoriously after falling into a deep hole.

      Next, he incited their imagination — “act like in the Mission: Impossible movie and you’ll win!” — and concluded by calling upon them to repent (tobat).

      The symbolic rhetoric used by Anas and Anis may be aimed at their own constituents to restore their own and their parties’ authority. Soon after they took over, both were quick to take action and meet with the party’s rank-and-file members — which Anis did in Medan and Anas in Banten. Anas even chose to be absent when Yudhoyono assembled the party’s top brass to renew their commitment to fight graft.

      In short, it is as if they were loyal to Machiavelli’s dictum: “It’s better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.” Meanwhile, nothing has been announced, nor denied, presumably not even discussed, about the corruption allegations.

      In other words, as they view it, it’s the fate of the political parties — not the state — that is at stake. And since the issues in both cases ultimately concern party finance, those symbolic messages are actually meant to warn and encourage, telling members that a new start is in their best interests.

      Although a few resisted Anis’ appointment in the PKS, Anas, given his faction’s relative strength in
      the PD, resisted by blaming Yudhoyono’s administration’s shortcomings for the party’s problems.

      Anas has apparently been able to maintain his own power base within the party thanks to relationships nurtured over decades with the Muslim Students Association (HMI) and HMI alumni association
      (KAHMI).

      Anis and Anas offer a tale of two parties: both reformist, one with Islam-inspired political ideology and a clear mission, the other a secular, often labeled “liberal”, consensus-based party without clear ideological inclination.

      The PKS, though, has gone through important changes. As early as February 2008, one of its founders, Mashadi, told me in an interview of his unhappiness with the trends facing the party.

      Like Yusuf Supendi, another PKS founder and critic, Mashadi complained of the growing split within the party between the “Justice” and the “Prosperous” factions, implying that the latter were more concerned with power and wealth.

      “They are going even more hedonistic,” Mashadi said. Both raised doubts on the PKS’ ambitions to join the big three parties in 2014, which Anis believes remains the party’s target.

      It was at the PKS congress in June 2010, held at a cost of Rp 10 billion (US$1.03 million) in Jakarta’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, that highlighted the change, as the party formally declared itself an “open party”, formally abandoning its original mission as a dakwah (Islamic propagation) party, which in practical terms meant pragmatism for the sake of achieving power in the long term.

      Thus, it became opportunistic or, as Munarman, the rights activist-turned-Muslim militant put it, a buka-tutup (sometimes open, sometimes close) political party.

      Given Indonesia’s historical experience with charismatic leaders (remember Sukarno), it seems odd that an ideological party such PKS is lacking a godfather with firm authority to rely on, whereas a secular party like the PD is depending too much on the one they have.

      In both cases, however, they basically depend on public resources and party clientelism.

      And, as the cases reveal, both are necessarily elite-oriented, even though Anas seems able to maintain some power base; in fact he is the only member with an organized party base, hence his capability
      to resist.

      As a consequence, rather than relying on community-based party chapters at the grassroots level, which both parties largely lack, the PKS and the PD can only call upon their rank and file, or top leaders, to resolve problems.

      This oligarchic developmental pattern may be the perfect exemplar of post-Soeharto democracy: In the absence of organized mass action, elitism will continue to prevail and clientelism will tend to be based on party interests and religious sentiments rather than on national or class-based interests.

      The writer is a journalist and the former Jakarta correspondent for Radio Netherlands.

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