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Political Parties in Heart Only

Not every political party is seriously established. One only has Rp1.5 million in its bank account.ITS name is reminiscent of the old days: The New Order Party. Registered almost three years ago, this political party is number 16 in the Department of Justice & Human Rights’ register. Its stated address is Jalan Perdatam Raya 54C, South Jakarta. But it turns out that this is the address for a course in learning guidance for SMA (senior high) students.

When registered, this New Order Party was chaired by Zaufi Lubis with Herdiansyah as secretary and Jamilah as treasurer. But don’t expect to meet these three at the address stated. “We’ve been occupying this office since last August,” says Awaludin, an employee of the learning-guidance course.

According to Awaludin, several people have come to inquire if the address is really the office of the New Order Party. Last month, a man in police uniform visited and a uniformed man claiming to be a Jakarta government official also came last week.

Sujarwo, head of the local neighborhood association, confirmed that the New Order Party had its office in the house for about two years from 2005. He says he asked questions about the name of the party. “One of the officials said that New Order was still a good buy in the market (still popular),” Sujarwo quotes him as saying.

One hundred parties have been registered with the Justice Department. These weeks must be hectic ones for the party activists. In order to qualify and take part in the 2009 General Elections, they should have met various requirements by no later than February 27, 2007.

Only parties with status as a legal entity will be verified by the Justice Department. “Most have not yet fulfilled the administrative requirements,” said Asyarie Syihabudin, head of the Justice & Human Rights Department’s Constitutional Law Sub-Directorate, on Thursday last week.

On the list are such big names as General (ret) Wiranto’s People’s Conscience Party and the Democratic Party of Reform belonging to a former activist of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). There are also old parties that in 2004 failed to secure the minimum number of votes. They have to change their names, like Partai Bintang Bulan (Star Crescent Party) (formerly Partai Bulan Bintang, Crescent Star Party), and Partai Keadilan Persatuan (United Justice Party) (previously Partai Keadilan dan Persatuan Indonesia (Indonesian Unity & Justice Party). Among them there are some strange-sounding names.

In addition to the New Order Party, there is Suharto’s Guiding Light Work Party. This party was founded by 50 people, mostly Bekasi residents, in December 2006. According to its executive, this party dreams of reviving the “glory” of the former ruler who recently died on January 27. “We use Suharto’s name to jack up the resale value of the party,” says Saladin Pandata Rangkuti, the party’s secretary-general.

Its emblem resembles that of the Golkar Party. The difference lies in the fact that Golkar uses a banyan tree flanked by a cluster of rice paddy and cotton. The new party’s emblem is a hurricane lamp flanked by paddy and cotton. Saladin’s home in Cibitung, some 60 kilometers south of the town of Bekasi, is the party’s office. There is no flag, posters or banners. There are only family photos.

The notary deeds list the particulars of the 50 party founders. Their education is not higher than senior high school. The party’s chairman, Pandara, is the former village chief of Sukalaya, Bekasi. Even though most members of the party have no steady job, Saladin says the Suharto’s Guiding Light Work Party cherishes a big dream of “promoting the socioeconomic welfare of the lower orders.”

However, Saladin is pessimistic about his party’s likelihood of getting verification. Of various conditions, only one has been met, that is, the existence of a bank account which was opened in the Jabar Bank early last month. The balance is Rp1.5 million. “It can’t possibly be increased. In fact, it might decrease,” he says.

There is another party “reminiscent of the past,” the Young Banyan Party whose emblem resembles that of Golkar. Established in November 2007, this party’s office is on Jalan Wijaya I, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, sharing a place with the National Anti-Drug Movement and Advocacy Institute for Regional Autonomy Enforcement.

The party’s organizational structure, led by Almukmin Ibnu Ali is somewhat bureaucratic in nature. The supreme leader is the president and there are also cabinet ministers. Regional executive boards are led by governor and regent. Almukmin is the chairman of the Golkar’s Consultative Organization (MKGR), the substructure of Golkar.

According to Almukmin, his party was founded by young people who are disappointed with the stuck cadre development of the major party. He denied creating an emblem similar to that of Golkar. “Yellow is the color of nationalism, banyan is the symbol of unity. If people associate this with Golkar, it’s up to them,” he says.

This party recruits members of the Indonesian Legal Advisors Association, the MKGR and former student activists. Ahmad Rizal, head of the Youth and Sport Department, for example, is a former activist with the Common Forum in 1998. “But I am not active,” he says. In 1998 he was deputy treasurer of the Student Front. Almukmin is not sure he will be able to fulfill the requirements set by the government.

Establishing a political party is not easy. The Political Party Law stipulates that a party must have a certain number of branches in its province, regency or municipality as well as in the subdistrict. They are also required to have a permanent office, be registered in the National and Political Unity Board from provincial level down to the regency or municipal level. Each executive board member must have a legitimate ID card (KTP) from the subdistrict chief.

According to Asyarie Syihabudin, the cost of turning a party into a legal entity is not high. In fact, registration is free. A cost of Rp200,000 is levied for a copy of the minister’s decree of legal entity. Creating a network is costly. But opening an office will certainly call for a huge amount of money?

“If the monthly lease for each branch office is Rp5 million, how much money will be needed?” says Asyarie. Asyarie thinks that those meeting the administrative requirements will not be attained by as many as one-tenth of the total number of aspiring parties.

Saiful Mujani, director of the Indonesian Survey Institute views the new parties use of the symbols of the New Order as comical. As if, he says, Suharto was successful in the past and left a political legacy. As it is, the political parties carrying an imprint of the New Order do not sell. For example, the Care for the Nation Work Party founded by Siti Hardijanti (Tutut) did not lure many voters. “They are simply building a dream,” declares Saiful.

Abdul Manan and Hamludin

Tempo Magazine, No. 25/VIII/February 19-25, 2008


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