Megawati Sukarnoputri, chairwoman of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), speaks during the party's fifth congress in Bali that ended with a battle cry against the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and with plans to reinstate a New Order-style of governance. (Antara Photo/Fikri Yusuf)

'Caliphate No; State Policy Guidelines Yes!': PDI-P


AUGUST 12, 2019

Jakarta. The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, has ended its fifth congress, reinstating itself as a bastion against moves to establish an Islamic caliphate in the archipelago.

It also stated its political mission over the next five years to reinstate the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) – which now comprises the House of Representatives (DPR) and Regional Representatives Council (DPD) – as the highest governing body in the country, in a move some observers say would further entrench the status quo.

"The PDI-P noticed a disintegration phenomenon that emerged systematically in the 2019 elections. It almost tore apart the unity and integrity of the nation. For the PDI-P, this is a serious issue that cannot be ignored," the party said in a statement on Sunday.

Indonesia's largest party pinpointed the source of this threat as a political movement that seeks to impose a caliphate and replace the country's democracy and state ideology of Pancasila.

"The PDI-P moves with the people to face the threat of conflict and national disintegration triggered by radicalism, terrorism, uniformity of interpretations and a single claim of truth and coercion of the will by a handful of community groups that are contrary to the ideology of Pancasila, including the caliphate movement, which wants to replace Pancasila," the party said. 

Proponents of a caliphate – such as members of the now-disbanded nonviolent mass organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia – rallied behind Prabowo Subianto in the April 17 presidential election, but turned their backs on the founder and chairman of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) after he indicated a willingness to join hands with the winning coalition. 

Still, the threat to Indonesia lingers. The latest survey by pollster Cyrus Indonesia showed that only 70 percent of Indonesians accept Pancasila as the country's ideology and a unifying viewpoint for all citizens. 

The survey, conducted among 1,230 randomly selected respondents across Indonesia, had a 3 percent margin of error and 95 percent confidence level.

Nearly 5 percent of respondents said they wanted a caliphate and 13 percent wanted the country to implement Islamic law. The remainder either did not answer, or favored other ideologies. 

The survey also showed that support for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to take strong action against organizations that oppose Pancasila was even lower, at only 63 percent. 

Therefore, the PDI-P urged the government to "establish a strong national defense system" to counter the infiltration of foreign ideologies. 

Return of State Policy Guidelines

The PDI-P's plan to make the MPR the highest governing body in the country would see the return of the body's role in determining State Policy Guidelines, or GBHN – long-term guidelines for national development akin to the Chinese Communist Party's five-year plans. The MPR previously also had the power to elect the president, which was grossly abused during Suharto's New Order era. 

Indonesia amended its 1945 Constitution in 1999 after the dictator's demise to allow for direct presidential elections, but it also gave the central government the power to dictate long-term policy guidelines, making development goals subject to political negotiations among parties and regional aspirations. 

"To guarantee the sustainability of national development, a limited amendment of the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia must be made to re-establish the MPR as the highest state institution with the authority to determine the GBHN as a guideline for governance," the PDI-P said. 

Yus Djuyandi, a political analyst at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, West Java, expressed support for the proposed amendment. 

"The country has lost the essence of forming consensus," Yus said, noting that every president since the dawn of the Reformation era had changed state policies and rearranged ministries and government institutions.

He said the GBHN would limit that and allow the president to focus on the country's long-term future. 

"We hope that by reinstating the MPR as the highest governing institution in the country, there will be strategic and substantive policies that can be discussed together by members of the DPR and DPD without prioritizing their party or regional affiliations," Yus said.

"But of course, the MPR must also be limited to dealing with fundamental matters, such as the issue of strengthening ideology, strengthening the GBHN and becoming a higher political institution that can mediate political conflict that may divide the nation," he said.

However, Nyarwi Ahmad, a lecturer in political communication at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, said re-establishing the MPR as the country's highest institution would be a step backward and that it could endanger the democratic system. 

"The amendment can be the second coming of the New Order," Nyarwi said. He said reinstating the MPR as the highest governing body was a step toward ditching Indonesia's system of direct presidential elections. It would also undermine the role of civil society and non-state actors in the democratic process, paving the way for an authoritarian regime, he said. 

Nyarwi added that there was no urgency to revive the GBHN 

"If we choose to do so, it would be the same as wanting to imitate countries that are known to be less democratic or even undemocratic, such as Russia and China," he said.

"The preamble of the 1945 Constitution provides guidance on the direction and objectives of the state. What is needed, are broad guidelines of government direction. If that is what is meant, then it can be discussed in the national legislature, together with the government or the executive. Both the short term and long term," Nyarwi said.