All 11 contenders in the ruling Democratic Party’s convention — of which its winner will represent the party in the 2014 presidential election — have vowed to enforce the law, combat corruption and boost economic growth, while at the same time provide equal prosperity and civilian rights for all.
With series of surveys showing that the party would dip in the upcoming legislative elections as one after another graft scandals hit its officials, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, founder and chairman of the party, expressed hopes that young and fresh faces at Sunday’s meeting will reverse the fate of the party.
The convention, however, is still overshadowed by critics and suspicion that it does not represent a real selection for presidential candidates and that former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, who is also Yudhoyono’s brother in law, has been picked as the party’s representative beforehand.
At the convention’s opening ceremony, Anies Baswedan, one of the participants and the country’s rising social thinkers, said that the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) was established not to protect certain groups but to protect all citizens without exceptions.
Anies, the rector of Paramadina University, a school that is pooling together a number of influential moderate Muslim intellectuals, said that every citizen is entitled to legal protection regardless of whether they come from the majority or minority groups.
“This republic was founded to protect all Indonesian citizens without exception. Let’s all join hands, and fix this beloved country of ours,” said Anies.
The academic said that Indonesia should not focus too much on material things and natural resources to build the country. He said that the advancement of a country lies in the quality of human beings who live in it.
“Our biggest treasure is the Indonesian people. All of the country’s potentials will grow once the people are educated,” he said.
Anies criticized the rampant corruption practices that occur at just about all levels of society.
“Corruption is a disease that stalls developments,” said Anies, adding that he wanted to improve integrity of the people based on the principle of honesty and willingness to carry out the mandate.
“We have to improve integrity. We must enforce the law without exception. Whoever violates the law must face legal enforcers,” he said.
North Sulawesi Governor Sinyo Harry Sarundajang said that Indonesia is a miraculous country — with tens of thousands of islands, hundreds of races and the world’s six main religions — and therefore he hoped that Indonesians can leave behind factors that could disrupt the nation.
“Let’s leave behind conflicts, violence and religious conflicts. The state has to control religion but the state must also run based on religion. Let’s all build our beloved country together,” said Sarundajang.
He said that his vision was to build a strong and prosperous archipelagic unitary state. “It’s our obligation to maintain the integrity of NKRI,” said Sarundajang.
Dino Patti Djalal, outgoing Indonesian ambassador to the United States, said that the younger generation should be able to change the country for the better, adding that in terms of the economy Indonesia could become Asia’s giant.
“As leaders, we should work harder and improve ourselves. Indonesia must change into a country with multiple skills. There is no time for rest,” said Dino.
He claimed that he had no ambition to win the convention but pledged that he would work hard for the country.
“I’m here not to apply for a job. Losing or winning is not problem. I’m not the type who likes to go after positions, but I’m more into making achievements. I will become the pioneer of the modernization of the country’s politics,” said Dino.
A corruption-free state
Pramono, meanwhile, stressed the importance to enforce the law in order to create a corruption-free Indonesia.
He pledged to fight with the people to achieve independence on all sectors and to overcome problems that may arise in the future.
“The sovereignty lies in the hands of the people. Together with the people, let’s fight for independence. I promise I will never leave my fellow countrymen when problems arise,” he said.
The younger brother of First Lady Ani Yudhoyono also emphasized the importance in continuing development.
“We must continue to push for improvement of the country to achieve more dignity,” he said.
Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said he wished to strengthen the economy, fight corruption, improve the quality of education and accelerate the country’s progress.
“I am here not merely to sell or to spread false hopes,” said Gita.
He said his reason for participating in the convention was because he believed that Indonesians would pick a leader who is clean, honest, bold, swift and who doesn’t give up easily.
Gita, a Harvard graduate, said that the convention is not a place to fight for power. He said that the convention is a democratic forum for the people to choose a qualified leader.
He said that Indonesia has made several achievements and that he was committed to continue to further achievements by gaining international recognition both in economy and politics.
State Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan said that he wanted to change the character of the Indonesian people from simply being traders to industrialists.
“We almost became an industrialist nation, but we came back on being a nation of traders due to the Asian financial crisis in 1997-1998,” said Dahlan.
He said that the people preferred to become traders because it was easier than taking care of factories and to deal with workers.
Dahlan said that large imports by volume was one of the factors that contributed to the trade imbalance that is currently disrupting the Indonesian economy.
Hayono Isman, a Democratic Party lawmaker and seasoned politician, said that he will dedicate the remainder of his life for the people, saying that Indonesia is faced with many challenges and a lot remains to be done.
He envisioned Indonesia as an advanced and strong country with high competitiveness.
“Improving the welfare of the Indonesian people is important to push for advancement,” he said.
Irman Gusman, the speaker of the Regional Representatives Council, unveiled seven steps — including improving the country’s skills, especially in the energy, food and maritime sectors — in an attempt to create an advanced and independent Indonesia in the globalization era. He expressed confident that his seven-point measures will help Indonesia become a big and respectable country.
While the committee of the convention says that the winner will be decided by popular polling conducted by three independent survey institutions, many believe that Yudhoyono will make the final decision early next year on who will represent the party in 2014.
Convention chairman Maftuh Basyuni assured that the committee would work transparently and will not let the party intervene in the convention process.
Meanwhile, Gandi Parapat, member of the Dahlan Iskan Forum (Fordis), slammed the convention, saying that the competition has become unhealthy after several Democratic Party politicians asked Dahlan to resign from his ministerial post and to focus on the convention.
“The request from several PD [Democratic Party] politicians are very wrong,” said Gandi of the North Sumatra chapter of Fordis. “It has crossed the line of political ethics because Dahlan was asked to participate in the convention. After the convention had begun to run, they asked Dahlan to resign from his post as minister.”
Gandi said that based on one of the latest polls Dahlan was viewed as having the biggest chance to win the convention.
Surveys show little confidence
An April survey by the Center for Strategic and International Studies showed that the Democratic Party is losing even more ground among Indonesian voters, with only 7.1 percent of respondents saying that they would vote for the party in next year’s elections — following a spate of scandals involving party officials.
“Compare it to the result of the 2009 elections, which were won by PD with 21 percent of the votes. Now it’s only 7.1 percent,” Philips J. Vermonte, a senior researcher with CSIS, said in Jakarta recently.
Philips said the latest result followed the declining trend in the ruling party’s popularity, with similar polls conducted by CSIS in January and July last year showing that 12.6 percent and 11.1 percent of respondents, respectively, were willing to vote for the party.
A different poll by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) similarly showed the party’s decline in popularity, with the Democrats winning only 11.7 percent of the respondents’ favor in a March survey, from 13.7 percent in February last year.
Another poll body, the National Survey Media (Median), pointed out earlier this month that nearly 77 percent of Democratic Party voters in 2009 have decided to cast their ballots for other parties next year, according to an April poll. That represented the biggest loss among other party participants of the 2009 elections.
“PD surely has a lot of homework to do … The latest figure reflects a significant drop,” Philips said.