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Politics in the New Hard Times: Navigating in Turbulent Ocean

Universitas Riau - Azhari Setiawan Alumni International Relations University of Riau - There are several important points on seeing what happened in global politics constellation along 2015. Arab Awakening, Democratization, Greece Economic Crisis, Terrorism, Environmental Issues and also Refugees “Numbers Bombing” in Europe has took their parts as “turbulence in ocean”. This is the new hard times for the World, and also Indonesia. Our position, geographically is still strategic not only in economic issues but also some other issues such as security, regionalization, and culture. This means that the turbulences of world politics has potential effect for Indonesia. First effect came from Economic Crisis that has took part in Indonesia’s first strategic policy. In Jokowi’s one year as president, inflation climbed in large part because of higher food prices (especially rice), and growth slowed due to declining competitiveness, difficult global conditions, and China’s deceleration, resulting in large layoffs of Indonesian factory workers. But this has been tackled by reshuffling the cabinet and brought in a new economic team that within the short space of six weeks announced five reform packages designed to improve competitiveness, revive investment, and arrest the growth slowdown. 

Vikram Nehru (Senior Associate Asia Program Chair in Southeast Asian Studies-Carnegie Endowment) said that On the positive side, the reforms are expected to streamline import, export, and investment licensing; introduce a new system for fixing minimum wages; ensure quicker permits for land use; and improve access to finance for small enterprises and individuals. On the negative side, however, they effectively increase energy subsidies to industry at a time when such subsidies already drain budgetary resources away from higher priority infrastructure and social expenditures. They also leave untouched restrictive labor market regulations and a range of trade barriers that curb imports and exports, distort production incentives, and inhibit the expansion of labor-intensive manufacturing. 

After economic crisis potential and US’ over production effect toward Indonesia, second concern came from Middle East Awakening. We all know that Middle East is always complex and complicated. Multidimensional Conflicts in Middle East has threatened regional and global security. High rate of violence and Human Rights cases; ISIS survival and its latest attack in Paris last months ago; and lack of social justice in some authoritarian Arab governments have made extremism and radicalism growing time to time. Even the “Global Coalition Against ISIS” still can’t win the battle even though the Coalition has enormous power made of 63 member states. Indonesia and Islam has a connection to the Middle East. Islamic State—which is not Islam and also not a state—is big challenge for Indonesia as the country with the highest number of Muslim citizen to show the world our “moderate Islam” identity as the contribution on fighting against terrorism. Undang-undang Dasar 1945 of Indonesia aver that Indonesia is forbidden to engage with any Defense Pact including the “Islamic Coalition Fighting Against Terrorism” that has been established by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and numbers of Islamic Countries. But, Indonesia is able to apply soft power-diplomacy for fighting against terrorism by constructing the “moderate Islam” model as a role model for other Islamic Countries.

The third concern for world politics and Indonesia is Democratization. Indonesia is still on the stairway of transition to Democracy. We are in the hard time exploring the “Non-western Democracy”. Support for the concept of non-Western democracy is becoming more voluble, widespread and determined. In many places, it has become a central focus of debates about the future of democracy. Calls for non-Western varieties of democracy are part and parcel of the rise of a post-Western world order. Attend an international meeting on democracy today, and we will likely hear passionate arguments that Western liberal democracy has lost credibility and that non-Western political models must now be favored across the developing world and among rising powers.

Indonesia on previous era of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has applied a foreign policy model named as “One Million Friends, Zero Enemy” to promote Democracy and Human Rights values. dihara“Bali Democracy Forum” as manifestation on Democratization has achieved its success by the increasing number of BDF member states and has built Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) as instrument and means for Democratic Countries to discuss, negotiate, and improve Democratic matters. Indonesia and Jokowi’s era has opportunity and challenge to be the 1) norm setter, 2) consensus builder, 3) peace keeper, 4) bridge builder, and 5) voice of developing democratic countries if we want to construct our identity as good non-Western democratic country model for others. Certainly, we need to fix some problems in our countries such as 1) pluralism and minority debates; 2) ethics and moral concern on our parliament body; 3) conflicts between political coalition in Indonesia government; and 4) Corruption and Law Enforcement as the most crucial problem.

The fourth concern is Maritime Axis Strategic Policy as Indonesia national interest which has promoted by President Jokowi as one of his primary concern on security issue. In welcoming the integration of the “ASEAN Security Community 2015”, it appears many questions that need to be considered if we want to remain the independent of Indonesia in maintaining the leading edge and the outer region under the concept of regional integration. Geographically, the Malacca Strait is the largest international trade meeting point of various parts of the world marked by numerous "valuable" ships. It has been causing transnational crimes such as piracy and smuggling as well as terrorism. Geopolitically, the strait problem is divided into two term of issues, internal and external.

Internal aspect relates to the issue of ownership, which Indonesia must optimize its bargaining power with the other "owners" state such as Singapore and Malaysia on keeping the strait and also its bargaining power with "users" states who also feel worthy to intervene the strait security management. In terms of external, Indonesia should optimize the military capability and security in the Malacca Strait area security from transnational crimes treats such as hijacking, piracy and terrorism.

Geopolitic perspective shows that Malacca strait has many strategic values, especially economy values. So that, Indonesia has to optimize its military and diplomacy capability. In the other hand, Geostrategic perspective shows that the main problem for Indonesia toward Malacca Strait are ownership and transnational security. For the ownership issue, Indonesia uses border diplomacy toward the other two owner/coastal states and the users states which are the developed countries (such as : United States, China, India, Japan, etc). For the security issue, Indonesia uses military action and operation along the strait. Border diplomacy summarize Indonesia strategy must be focused to create an comprehensive cooperation with the other two owner states to make a valid legitimation on securing and ownering the strait. The extention of this cooperation is the military action and operation of Indonesia’s military forces. These actions and operations are targeted to every transnational organized crimes (piracy, hijacking, terorism, etc) that crossing South East Asia Maritime. Indonesia need to secure Malacca Straits as its national teritory from external threats (transnational crime) and internal threats (ownership problem and West intervention).

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s first state visit to the United States last October coincided almost exactly with his first anniversary in office. Back home, a recent poll by Indonesia’s most respected survey company provides a useful summary of how Indonesians rate the performance of their new president. Their assessment is decidedly mixed. Jokowi’s first year report card has a good mark for four aspects namely: 1) making healthcare affordable; 2) making education affordable; 3) combating corruption; and 4) building highways and roads. Survey and analysis by Vikram Nehru (Senior Associate Asia Program Chair in Southeast Asian Studies-Carnegie Endowment) said that the good news for Jokowi is that 71 percent of respondents are generally satisfied with the country’s security situation and 56 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction. As important, over the past four months, the number of respondents satisfied with Jokowi’s performance has sharply increased and now outnumbers those dissatisfied (51.7 percent to 45.5 percent). He gets high marks for delivering better public services—health, education, and roads —of which he can be justifiably proud.

The first challenge has been the administration’s inability to prevent private companies from illegally setting forest fires over large tracts in Sumatra and Kalimantan as a way to clear forest land on the cheap. The second challenge has been the administration’s disappointing inability—or perhaps unwillingness—to uphold religious freedom as guaranteed in the constitution. The third challenge has been Jokowi’s uncompromising stance on the execution of drug smugglers, some of whom were foreigners. 

Although Jokowi’s first year as president was rocky—an outsider’s initiation into the rough and tumble world of Jakarta politics—he appears to be gradually gaining the upper hand. Indonesians’ assessment of the new president is decidedly mixed. But with formidable political assets, Jokowi’s second year in office could be better than his first. 


About the Author
Azhari Setiawan is academician at Postgraduate Program of International Relations Department, Universitas Indonesia. He is also a researcher at Center of ASEAN Community Studies, Universitas Riau.

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