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Compromising with corruption
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 28 - 10 - 2004

While Indonesia has recently elected an apparent reformist as its new president, compromise already seems standard, writes Damien Kingsbury
Indonesia's new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has been sworn in to much public acclaim both within Indonesia and abroad. His new cabinet was announced a few hours later, receiving a generally positive but somewhat more muted reception.
Yudhoyono has promised that he will pursue a reform agenda, rebuild the economy and fight corruption. In this he appeared to be a leader who could break the existing practice of compromise. However, when it came to appointing his new cabinet, at least some compromise had already taken place before he had even taken office.
Yudhoyono has made much in recent weeks about his new team being largely comprised of the best people available, with a nod towards the other political parties. But as he began interviewing candidates, one of the more radical Islamic parties that had nominated him as president, the Justice Welfare Party (PKS), said that it would withdraw support if he chose economics ministers who were strong International Monetary Fund (IMF) supporters. The PKS also expressed concern over talk of a proposed National Security Council.
Responding to these concerns, Yudhoyono thus overlooked strong contenders for economics portfolios, appointing as Finance Minister Jusuf Anwar, an economist from the Asian Development Bank, while the position of economics minister went to Golkar's the former ruling party Aburizal Bakrie.
The latter appointment was intended to help secure Golkar's support in the legislature. Given that Golkar Chairman Akbar Tanjung had openly expressed hostility towards Yudhoyono's proposed reform bills, appointing Bakrie was intended as a safeguard against further opposition, even though Bakrie still carried approximately one billion dollars in personal debts following Indonesia's economic collapse.
Despite this obvious compromise, the economic focus of the new cabinet was enhanced by the appointment of a new minister for administrative reform, Taufik Effendi, and a new minister for acceleration of development in backwards region, Syaifulah Yusuf.
Perhaps the most critical task facing Yudhoyono is reform of Indonesia's notoriously corrupt and inefficient judiciary. Without addressing the judiciary, Indonesia will almost certainly retain its position as one of the world's most corrupt countries, which along with terrorism has been the primary reason why there has been so little foreign investment since 1998.
In order to tackle judicial reform, Yudhoyono sought to appoint a strong attorney-general, mentioning the names of some prominent and seemingly incorruptible human rights lawyers. In the end, however, Yudhoyono compromised here also.
The important post of attorney-general was given to a judge who had reasonable anti-corruption credentials. Supreme Court Judge Abdul-Rahman Saleh had put forward the only dissenting opinion of a five-judge panel to acquit Golkar Akbar Tanjung of corruption charges earlier this year. Yet while he is a good choice for attorney-general, whatever gains Yudhoyono might have made by appointing Bakrie he now lost with the appointment of Saleh. Thus the outcome is neutral, resulting in a legislature that will continue to present difficulties when trying to put the presidential programme into legislation.
Indonesia's problem with terrorism also presents a major headache for Yudhoyono. Owing much of his political success to the traditionally Islamic vote, should Yudhoyono choose to crack down on militant Islam he could quickly alienate both his support base as well as his vice-president, Jusuf Kalla.
The position of coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs went, as expected, to the moderately reformist former Admiral Widodo, who was the first non-army officer to be commander-in-chief of the military. Former Lieutenant-General Mohamed Maaruf was handed the position of minister for home affairs, which was important in relation to issues of separatism along with communal and terrorist violence while Juwono Sudarsono an academic, ambassador to London and moderately reformist former defence minister was re-appointed to his old position of defence minister which he had previously held under President Abdul-Rahman Wahid.
The issue of military reform revolves around the need to put the military firmly under civilian authority, severing the mutually dependent relationship with politics, business and crime it has enjoyed for so long. As a former military reformer, Yudhoyono, seemingly, has the best credentials for undertaking such a task.
However, the ascension and hegemony of a conservative and politically active ideology within the military, combined with Yudhoyono's links to the military, stand as a real obstacle to meaningful change in this area. As all political aspirants in Indonesia know, no one can currently afford to alienate the military and still expect to be able to govern without serious interference.
In addition, the rise of the army's most notorious hawk, General Ryamizard Ryacudu, to the position of armed forces commander-in-chief, while also chief-of-staff of the army and commander of the important Strategic Reserve, has created a particular headache for Yudhoyono.
It seems that the new president had promised the commander-in-chief position to Ryamizard should he win the presidency. In this, it is worth noting that Ryamizard does not like Yudhoyono for his "doveish" reformist tendencies, and had only agreed to support Yudhoyono in exchange for the commander-in-chief position under pressure from military colleagues.
However, Ryamizard was handed the position not by Yudhoyono, but by the previous commander, General Endriartono Sutarto, who quit the job just before being sacked by Yudhoyono. This has not given Yudhoyono the chance to present Ryamizard to the legislature, which he must do to formalise the position. Yet should the legislature not approve the appointment, and it may not, it will appear that Yudhoyono has failed to deliver on a promise to the most powerful man in the military.
Finally, Yudhoyono's financial backers will expect to be allowed to run their businesses without interference and also probably expect the benefit of government concessions or contracts. As business people and criminals there was little altruism in their support for Yudhoyono, but much expectation of backing a winner and hence receiving a pay-off.
No matter which way Yudhoyono turns as president, he faces obstacles, and compromise has already proven a necessity. Amid the hype that has surrounded Yudhoyono's ascension to the presidency, some of the more sage observers are beginning to note that his achievements might have to be more modest than first hoped.


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