Monday, April 23, 2007

Indonesian political parties fail to produce new leaders

Almost a decade after the momentous moment of reform movement in 1998, Indonesian political parties fail to produce new leaders. Latest survey conducted recently by Indonesian national daily, Kompas, showed that political parties in Indonesia failed to produce future national leaders. The lack of cadre-based political party and the domination of mass-based political parties become an important reason for this failure.

According to the survey, current Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono still leads the pack followed by Megawati Soekarnoputri, Abdurrahman Wahid and Amien Rais. Other names like current Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, Sultan Hamengkubuwono X of Yogyakarta Sultanate and Hidayat Nurwahid are also there but their popularity is still small.

Direct pilkada (local executive elections) held during this period also failed to produce quality leaders. Most of the winners in these elections are non-party personalities who are either gone after their tenures end or convicted in corruption charges. Political pragmatism among political parties for the sake of winning these elections has worsened this situation. The process that was hoped to produce national leaders through local elections has failed. Two years before general elections in 2009 no new, fresh faces that yet to emerge. It is quite unfortunate for political parties in a young democracy like Indonesia to fail in producing quality cadres.

Several reasons have been put forward by politicians and political analysts as to why political parties fail to produce new, quality cadres. They believe that the current political laws that forbid civil servants to join active politics have contributed to the absence of first-class citizens to be involved in active politics. Most of them work as civil servant and mostly teach in government universities, thus making them unable to join active politics without first resigning from their status as civil servants. The uncertainty of their future in politics has held them back from joining active politics.

Besides, the lack of transparency in the internal political process in the political parties has also contributed to this situation. The failure of party elites fail to delegate strategic positions to the right personalities has indirectly forced professionals to avoid active politics. Favoritism and personal connection are the rules of the game. At the same time, rampant practice of money politics, especially in the pilkada, adds to the problem.

Furthermore, the lack of quality human resource in the political parties becomes a huge stumbling block to the process of expanding and educating party cadres. Thus, this situation has made it difficult for political parties to produce quality local leaders that could be projected as national leaders in the future. In the end, political parties turn to non-party cadres but qualified personalities as their candidates in the elections.

If the transition process to democracy in Indonesia is to be successful, this situation must be put to an end. Some drastic, radical changes must be taken to force political parties to produce quality leaders.

First, current political laws on political party membership must be amended. It should allow those first class citizens who currently live in the ivory towers to join active politics. Political parties must change their mindset and must then open themselves to professionals and first class citizens to be their members and party cadres. Once quality party cadres have been created, local elections can be used as their mini battle ground while national election will be the real target. Pragmatism among political parties must also be discontinued.

Secondly, creation of a law to accommodate the promotion of young leaders at national level must be prepared to guarantee their acceptance in the political circles. This kind of reservation would help young leaders to prepare themselves before receiving leadership baton from their seniors. It could also be used as a means to erase political apathy among young minds.

But before all those suggestions could be put forward, party leaders and party elites must understand and realize that political elitism and political oligarchy in political parties must be put to an end. They must open themselves to the public. Once elitism and political oligarchy in the political parties have diminished new faces and bright minds would easily be absorbed and be a part of the system. First-class citizens would also feel that there is a chance for them to practice their theories in an active politics to answer the expectations and to improve the lives and welfares of common people. In the end, the combination of these steps would help political parties to produce future Indonesian leaders with strong leadership, professionalism, excellent expertise and capability.

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