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How will the new 'New Order' party fare the 2019 elections?

BBC Indonesia - February 20, 2018

Abraham Utama – The Working Party (Partai Berkarya), which was initiated by former President Suharto's youngest son Hutomo Mandala Putra alias Tommy Suharto, is aiming to occupy third place in the 2019 legislative elections.

Observers however predict that like the three other political parties established by the Cendana [referring to the Suharto family residence in Central Jakarta] lineage in earlier elections, New Order symbols will not ensure that the Working Party passes the parliamentary threshold required to gain a seat in parliament.

Working Party general chairperson Neneng Tutty says that Tommy is a central figure in the organisation. He says that in the lead up to the elections Tommy will be campaigning intensively for the same program as his father.

"He is the chairperson of our party's advisory board. So he will most certainly follow his father. We will continue with the [policy] trilogy of development, the people's economy and food self-sufficiency", Tutty told BBC Indonesia on Monday February 19.

The development trilogy of Suharto's New Order regime referred to by Tutty was based on so-called dynamic national stability, high economic growth and development for all.

Referring to data from the General Elections Commission (KPU), the Working Party has 409,022 members with the level of women's representation standing at 36.36 percent.

The party's membership is higher than that of several other established parties including the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) which only has a membership of 339,224.

The Islamic based parties the Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) and the National Awakening Party (PKS) also have fewer members than the Working Party with 300,158 and 375,254 respectively.

Nevertheless, Gadjah Mada University (UGM) political science educator Mada Sukmajati says that the Working Party has yet to provide the public with any kind of detailed explanation about its political program.

Sukmajati believes that the party is simply betting its future on Tommy as a symbol of the New Order and isn't offering a concrete political program.

"They're still short [on detail], the Working Party's campaign will simply sell the New Order's program. The public hasn't noticed them yet. They'll just sell the New Order through Tommy and the banyan tree symbol and the colour of yellow", Sukmajati told BBC Indonesia.

On its official website the Working Party states that its mission is to increase political participation and fight for the public interest and the party's ideology.

In relation to the party's ideology, Sukmajati says that the only differentiation between the political parties in Indonesia is whether they are based on the state ideology of Pancasila or religion.

Of the parties based on Pancasila, including the Working Party, says Sukmajati, there is no essential difference between them.

"This new party is not offering a new ideology, vision, mission or program. What they are offering is an improvised program, just [hoping to pick up on the] mood or political climate at the moment", said Sukmajati.

Following reformasi – the reform process that began with the overthrow of Suharto – another political party backed by the Suharto family that once participated in the elections was the Concern for the Nation Functional Party (PKPB), namely in 2004 and 2009.

The PKPB won two seats in the House of Representatives (DPR) in 2004 but failed to get any representatives into the parliament in 2009. In 2004 the PKPB openly backed Suharto's oldest daughter Siti Hardijanti Rukmana alias Mbak Tutut as president.

This plan however failed because the PKPB was unable to reach the parliamentary threshold to nominate a presidential candidate.

The two other parties established by the Cendana family were the Functional Republic Party (Partai Karya Republik, Pakar) and the National Republic Party (Partai Nasional Republik, Partai Nasrep). Neither party has ever taken part in an election.

According to Sukmajati, with the banyan tree logo and the all yellow colours, the Working Party is endeavoring to attract support from sympathisers in the Golkar Party – Suharto's former ruling party. Moreover, the Working Party's vision and mission are almost identical to that of Golkar.

"I suspect that they are trying to garner votes from Golkar supporters disappointed with the performance of the party's leadership. They hoping for a spillover of votes from Golkar voters", said Sukmajati.

'Still grey'

When the political parties drew lots for their electoral campaign numbers at the KPU offices in Jakarta last Sunday, Tommy was present representing the Working Party. When asked about how many votes they were targeting in the 2019 elections, Suharto's youngest son failed to give a clear answer.

"Later okay. My schedule's packed. Later. Essentially we will be serving the nation and the country", he said as quoted by Kompas.com.

In a discussion with BBC Indonesia, Tutty said that the party wants to nominate a presidential candidate – meaning that it must obtain at least 20 percent of the national vote.

"We must be able to nominate a presidential candidate. We must be able to take part (in the presidential election), no matter who the candidate is, because it's still a long way to go", he said.

According to Sukmajati, the voters being targeted by the Working Party are among those who experienced the Suharto regime. This grouping however will be quite small because the electorate in the 2019 elections will be dominated by youth voters.

"Their market isn't very big. What they can play on is the memories of people who directly experienced the New Order, not the youth vote", said Sukmajati.

Based on data from Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting, 55 percent of voters in the 2019 elections will be 17-38 years old. Meanwhile the total number of potential voters recorded by the Department of Home Affairs stands at 196.5 million.

"The piye, enak zamanku narrative [which attempts to evoke memories of how much better it in Suharto's time] have gone viral but are yet to be confirmed electorally, and [parties relying on this sentiment] have been unable to pass the electoral threshold.

"If they only play up this narrative, yes well they will continue to fail. Except if they can convince the public that the programs of the past were good", said Sukmajati.

Aside from the Working Party, the three other new parties that will be participating the 2019 elections are the Indonesian Reform Movement Party (Partai Gerakan Perubahan Indonesia, Garuda), the United Indonesia Party (Partai Persatuan Indonesia, Perindo) and the Indonesian Solidarity Party (Partai Solidaritas Indonesia, PSI).

The Garuda Party is led by Ahmad Ridha Sabana, the president director of the commercial TV network TPI, owned by Suharto's daughter Siti Hardiyanti "Tutut" Rukmana.

Perindo meanwhile is headed up by media tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who is often referred to as Donald Trump's 'business partner in Indonesia'. The PSI is led by former television presenter Grace Natalie.

The Garuda Party has a membership of 693,191 people, the second largest after the People's Conscience Party (Hanura) which has 828,225 members.

Out of the 14 parties that will take part in the 2019 elections, Perindo has the fourth largest membership of 629,859 people. The PSI meanwhile has a registered membership of 332,172.


Photos of a smiling Suharto with the caption in Javanese piye kabare? sih uenak dijamanku toh? – How are you, better in my time, wasn’t it?" – have been going viral since the 2014 election and have appeared around the country on billboards and bumper stickers.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was Seberapa kuat partai 'bernuansa Orde Baru' bertarung di Pemilu 2019?. Note that additional explanations have been added to this translation for readability.]

Source: http://www.bbc.com/indonesia/indonesia-43116035.

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