Dilemmas of Populist Transactionalism: What are the prospects now for popular politics in Indonesia?

Dilemmas of Populist Transactionalism: What are the prospects now for popular politics in Indonesia?

Topic: Power, Welfare, and Democracy

Year: 2017

Writers: Olle Tornquist, Osmar Tanjung, Luky Djani, Surya Tjandra

Editors: –


Why is Indonesia by late 2016 suddenly so far from Jokowi’s Solo model of negotiating social contracts, which even produced a president in favour of change? And why are we now so far from the broad alliances of unions, CSOs and progressive politicians that produced a universal social insurance system? Why have the dynamics of Jakarta rather become more reminiscent of Donald Trump and European right-wing populist politicians’ ability to gain substantial support from not just extremists and racists but also the neglected working class? And what are the prospects, then, if any, for popular politics?

Indonesia is a critical case in point. The largest reformist popular movement in the world was eliminated in the mid 1960s, giving way to more than 30 years of authoritarian rule and uneven growth. After the fall of Soeharto, democration in the country has certainly come with a number of liberties but the process and institutions are dominated by compromises among moderate elites.

The answers in this timely essay are based on close analyses of the attempts at new popular politics since 2005. The transactional character of not only elitist but also populist politics that have put recent advances at risk must be transformed by way of policy proposals that foster broader alliances and by initiating institutionalised forms of representation of citizen participation as well as progressive interest and issue organisations.

This book showed revisiting experiments among popular and citizen groups to come together and make a difference within politics during the years before and after the fall of Soeharto. By the early mid-2000s, there were two significant openings: one, the development of an informal social contract between new populist leaders, urban poor, and civil society activists in the city of Solo, Central Java; two, the remarkably broad and successful KAJS (Komite Aksi Jaminan Sosial) alliance in Greater Jakarta, in which unions and civil society activists worked in tandem with progressive politicians to promote social policies and legislation for health protection.

Those two cases and the following processes provide a unique chance to discuss the viability of arguments about possible broader unity. This book conclude by summarizing the answers to the four critical questions to view of relevant international experiences: What characterised these social contracts and alliances? What enabled them? What problems occured? What are the lessons?