Coercing loyalty: coalitional presidentialism and party politics in Jokowi's Indonesia.

AuthorMietzner, Marcus

For many years, political scientists have asserted that presidentialism operating within a multi-party system is inherently unstable as presidents find it difficult to build reliable alliances with parties that control parliament. (1) In most cases, the president's own party falls short of holding a majority in the legislature, forcing him or her to rely on parties with questionable loyalties. This problem is made worse if the president does not even enjoy strong backing from his or her own party, as in the case of Indonesia's Joko Widodo (also known as "Jokowi"). But this assumption of weakness inherent in multi-party presidentialism has increasingly been challenged. A recent project on coalitional presidentialism found that "the ability of presidents to form coalitions has meant that the anticipated 'difficult combination' of multiparty politics and presidential systems has not proved detrimental to political stability". (2) Presidents, then, can avoid the traps of multi-party presidentialism by building effective alliances to secure their own survival and ensure the stability of the system as a whole. (3) In order to achieve this goal, presidents use five main tools: cabinet authority; budgetary power; partisan power (i.e. the influence that presidents can wield over their own party); legislative power; and the exchange of favours. (4) Among these, cabinet powers are generally seen as the most effective instrument as they allow for fast yet long-term accommodation of political partners.

A more critical approach to coalitional presidentialism has been one focused on patronage and "promiscuous powersharing" that provides the glue holding presidential and multi-party systems together. Writing on Indonesia and Bolivia, Dan Slater and Erica Simmons emphasized that presidents often invite as many parties as possible into their government in order to stabilize their rule. (5) At times, they contend, "these powersharing arrangements prove so encompassing as to make a mockery of putative partisan differences, and even to wipe out political opposition entirely by bringing every significant party into a 'party cartel'". (6) Thus, presidents get incorporated into a party cartel, with the demarcation lines between presidents and nominally oppositional parties disappearing. This may provide stability, but has other harmful consequences: "such promiscuous powersharing arrangements undermine representation by loosening parties' commitments to their core constituents, and threaten accountability by limiting voters' capacity to remove parties from power via the ballot box". (7) As a result, voters turn to populists--Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines being one prominent example.

However, Indonesian President Jokowi, in office since 2014, has chosen neither to prioritize the options available from the coalitional presidentialism menu, nor to let himself be subsumed into a party cartel. To be sure, he has used the offer of cabinet posts and his legislative powers to exert authority. However, this was not what allowed him to turn a 37 per cent minority in parliament at the beginning of his presidency in October 2014 into a 69 per cent majority by mid-2016. Rather, as I argue in this article, it was the revival of presidential interventionism in internal party affairs--last seen during the rule of autocrat President Suharto (1966-98)--that coerced some parties to abandon their oppositional stance and pledge support to the government. Using its authority to recognize or reject the legality of a party's leadership board, Jokowi's administration supported pro-government factions in at least two opposition parties. Ultimately, the oppositional segments in both parties surrendered and agreed to pledge their allegiance to the government as well. From the rubble of these intra-party battles, then, Jokowi emerged as a significantly strengthened president, with the opposition emasculated.

Jokowi's approach constituted a sharp break from the practice of his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004-14), who had completed two stable yet ineffectual terms (8) by relying on the conventional tools of coalitional presidentialism and, as Slater and Simmons argued, at least partially serving the interests of the party cartel. Yudhoyono had stayed away from intervening in internal party affairs, instead offering cabinet representation and other rewards to all parties, including those that decided to remain in opposition. (9) Hence, while Yudhoyono largely used carrots to ensure the coherence of his coalition and his presidency, Jokowi has resorted to the stick to not only preserve his existing alliance, but also enlarge it by coercing opposition parties into joining it.

Obviously, this new (or reconstituted) paradigm of presidential party interventionism in Indonesia has had strong implications for the country's democratic quality--although these implications are far from clear-cut. On the one hand, Jokowi's heavy-handed approach to party politics reflected and aggravated a trend of democratic erosion that had begun in Yudhoyono's second term. (10) This trend included declining minority rights, (11) an expanded political role for the military, (12) and increased elite demands for a rollback of post-1998 reforms. (13) On the other hand, Jokowi's domestication of the opposition arguably prevented an even greater democratic decline, given that the opposition alliance was pursuing an antidemocratic agenda. Led by former Suharto's former son-in-law and failed 2014 presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, the opposition alliance had in late 2014 abolished direct local elections. Prabowo had also pledged to restore Indonesia's pre-democratic constitution, (14) which would have seen direct presidential elections and other post 1998 reforms overturned. Thus, while Jokowi's move had undemocratic undertones, it was directed against leaders and parties who had intended to undermine Indonesia's post-Suharto democracy even more profoundly.

This article assesses Jokowi's interventionism in party affairs in five steps. First, it gives an overview of Yudhoyono's approach to political parties, highlighting his use of traditional instruments of coalitional presidentialism. Second, it exemplifies Jokowi's interventionist approach by analyzing in detail his treatment of Golkar, which was firmly allied with Prabowo in 2014 but then became the first party to re-nominate Jokowi for the presidency in 2016. The third section explains the case of PPP (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan, United Development Party), whose pro-Prabowo faction won legal recognition in the courts but was nevertheless sidelined by the government, which helped install a leader supportive of the incumbent administration. In the fourth section, I discuss the impact of the Golkar and PPP cases on other parties; while not experiencing the same extent of interventionism, two other opposition parties dropped their pro-Prabowo leaders in 2015, partly because they feared not doing so would make them vulnerable to government interference. Finally, the conclusion reviews the implications of Jokowi's interventionist assertion of presidential control for the debate on the quality of Indonesian democracy and the discussion on multi-party presidentialism. (15)

Yudhoyono's Inclusive Coalition-Building

Coalitional presidentialism in Indonesia began to take roots after Suharto's resignation in 1998. His successor, B.J. Habibie (1998-99), included both existing opposition parties in his transitional government, marking the first coalitional cabinet since parliamentarism in the 1950s. Indonesia's first democratically elected president, Abdurrahman Wahid (1999-2001), also initially signalled that he wanted to head a coalition government, but then proceeded to dismantle this very alliance by constantly firing ministers of coalition parties and practising a highly erratic and self-centred decision-making process. He was consequently impeached in 2001 and replaced by Megawati Sukarnoputri (2001-4). Megawati then ran a classic coalitional cabinet that included most of Indonesia's post-authoritarian parties, delivering stability for much of her term. Yet it was Yudhoyono who not only institutionalized coalitional presidentialism as a pragmatic necessity, but celebrated it as a virtue of stable governance.

Yudhoyono's understanding of coalitional presidentialism, which emphasized the need for accommodative inclusion of parties in the incumbent administration, had been shaped by his experience as a senior minister in Wahid's cabinet. Against Yudhoyono's advice, Wahid had taken a combative stance against parliament (ultimately trying to disband it), and was removed as a result. Having witnessed Wahid's decline personally, Yudhoyono--by his own admission--drew the conclusion that a president needed to sustain a large multi-party coalition in parliament in order to survive. (16) This was despite the fact that the rules for presidential impeachment had changed significantly after Wahid's dismissal. In 2002, the Constitution had been amended in a way that required three quarters of the members of the People's Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat, MPR) to be present in an impeachment session, two-thirds of whom would have to support the motion. Moreover, the MPR can only call for an impeachment session if the Constitutional Court has confirmed that the president indeed violated the Constitution. In reality, therefore, a minority bloc of 25 per cent of the MPR members can prevent a presidential impeachment by not attending it. In spite of these new regulations, however, Yudhoyono believed that he needed to permanently entrench a broad parliamentary alliance to protect himself from oppositional attempts at his removal. (17)

In putting together this alliance, and in trying to ensure its continued allegiance, Yudhoyono turned to the conventional tool kit of coalitional presidentialism. First and...

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