The Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday that military personnel and police would not be allowed to participate in 2014 elections because Indonesia’s political infrastructure was still too fragile to allow armed officers to participate in politics.
Defense ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Hartind Asrin told the Jakarta Globe on Saturday that with the current level of democratic maturity, it is still too risky for military and police personnel to vote or be nominated in elections.
“If we went to the polls now, the country would fall apart immediately,” he said, adding that there could be a civil war if military and police troops came to blows over different political views.
The military consists of about 400,000 soldiers supported by some 60,000 civil servants. Meanwhile, the police force consists of 408,000 officers supported by some 30,000 civil servants, Hartind said.
Their family members are allowed to vote, as are retired officers, but as long as officers are still wearing their uniforms, they cannot vote or run for any political offices, he clarified.
Hartind explained that currently Indonesia did not have the appropriate environment to ensure national safety and peace.
He particularly mentioned personnel who were considering running for office. In military and police hierarchy, “one cannot suddenly jump to a higher position without climbing the ladder of leadership step by step,” he warned.
The same principle must be applied in a democratic civil society, Hartind said.
As an example, he said that when it comes to executive leaders such as governors, mayors, and district chiefs, voters should not elect a leader who has a weak or unclear track record.
Yunarto Wijaya, director of research at Charta Politica, has similar views on the subject.
In an interview on Saturday, he said that there were two prerequisites for the military and police to vote — the first being that political parties must be mature, and the second that society must be rational.
He added that even today, primitive sentiments are spoiling local elections across the archipelago.
“If we allow the military and police to vote, the situation will get worse, and the country will break apart,” Yunarto said.
A simple way to determine the maturity of Indonesia’s democracy is to take opinion polls on what institutions the public trusts the most, Yunarto said, adding that political parties should be near the top of the list.