Selasa, 17 Juni 2008

Legitimacy, Trust, and Progressive Democracy

Behind Controversies of Independent Candidates in General Election
“A Great Democracy cannot be called great or to be called as democracy if it is not progressive”

(Theodore Roosevelt, 1910).

Reformation Movement, which was triggered in 1998 has altered almost entire aspects of life in Indonesia. Reformation in government, economic, law, and even Political system have been followed by a radical social change. Along the journey of time, the reformation activity has been “coloured” by various situation. Democracy, for example, cannot be implemented well in last ten years. Many frictions between many groups occurred, even in DPR which has been established as people representatives. It implicates commutation of national and local leaders that happened several times.

We can see one of the friction that happens this year in Depok, about the changing of major in that city. The election was won by Dr. Nurmahmudi Ismail (candidate from PKS) after a long and hard struggle. His challenger, Badrul Kamal (candidate from Golkar and PKB) was not pleased with ther result and send a protest to Pengadilan Tinggi Jawa Barat. Unpredictably, Badrul’s protest had been accepted and The Court of Justice changed the result. The condition became strained when Nurmahmudi Ismail went to Mahkamah Agung for having a judicial review to the result. After his hard struggle, the Mahkamah Agung accept their judicial review because his evidence was stronger than Badrul Kamal’s.

One of those political paradigm which should be changed by our government is the paradigm that put political party as “single player” in election arena. There should be independent candidate who has no deal with any political party. It can make the election gains more benefit in practice because the independent candidate does not only belong to “mass-based” or “money-based” program, but also to programs which are aside to public welfare. Thus, independent candidate is the best way to implement progressive democracy in Indonesia.

Democracy in Indonesia: Between Reality and Ideality

If we are talking about democracy, we should know about what the substance of democracy is. According to Budiarjo (1994), democracy considered as a political system which is controlled by whole population in the state. Thus, the authority is belonging to people, not to person. As a matter of fact, the authority has been given from the people to their representatives by the mechanism of general election. The representatives would claim the aspiration from their voters in House of Representative. Thus, the person who want to be a representative of people should use a political party as his/her media.

In Indonesia, democracy has not been settled as a substantive democracy. It is true that in Indonesia there are so many political parties which compete in general election. But in fact, many of political parties use their voters to make their interests. Parliament, which originally considered as a media to implement democracy, changes onto a media to implement some interests. Political parties do not make the aspiration of their voters as their program. There are so many political deals which damaged the substance of democracy in Indonesia itself. It implicates corruption as a logical consequence.

According to philosophy of democracy, there is an adagium that is very popular among our politicians: Vox Populi, Vox Dei. This adagium means that sound of people considered as ‘sound of God’ in democracy. Thus, people have a legitimacy to decide their future by themselves. There should not be any intervention from any person unless they have legitimacy by people. We may not recognize this adagium as an obligation that should be implemented in a Moslem country. But in fact, this adagium clearly recommend that people’s voice is not only spoken by political parties. There are some alternative ways to implement the substances of democracy. In general election, there should be independent candidate who has more capabilities to lead his/her people and being trusted by people.

Positive Impacts of Legalizing Independent Candidates

If the government legalize the existence of independent candidates, there are some positive impacts.

Firstly, independent candidates can be trusted by people better than candidates from political party. We can see election result in Aceh. There are six couples of candidates fought; one of them was Irwandi Yusuf – Muhammad Nazar which was independent. They did not have any political party but having more than 3% of Aceh people who supported them. In the “fighting day”, almost none of political observer predicted them to win. But in result, they won. This fact is an evidence that people does not always trust political party. After the election, we can see that there is no turbulence in Aceh. Although Irwandi Yusuf used to be a member of Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, there is no intension that Irwandi Yusuf will do any separatical effort for GAM. Even the contrary, he tries to persuade GAM for coming back to Republic of Indonesia.

Secondly, independent candidate will offer many populist programs but having no deal with political party. We can see in Jakarta when KPUD noticed that not all citizen used their vote rights. We all know that in Jakarta Governor election there are only two candidates who fought in the election, Fauzi Bowo and Adang Daradjatun. Many academist questioning the absence of Sarwono Kusumaatmaja and Faisal Basri, who offered realistic programs to make Jakarta better than before. The problem is actually simple; They do not make any political deal with any political party. Although they had many realistic and prosperous programs to offer, they could not join the election. Whereas, we do not doubt their integrity to lead Jakarta.

Thirdly, the existence of independent candidates will open the chance for people to participate in political arena. If the government permits independent candidate to compete in election, people will not see politics as “a kind of bad thing” anymore. They will consider politics as a media to express their aspiration. As long as the government keep controlling the mechanism of election, there will not be any political disorder in governor election. Even it will increase people’s spirit to participate in politics. “Participating” here does not only mean as applying for the candidate. “Participating” can mean expression of people’s aspiration to make crucial sectors of development better than before. Here, the existence of independent candidate will be very useful to motivate people to participate in development.

Negative Consequences of Legalizing Independent Candidates

Besides, the existence of independent candidates also being questioned by some people. They have an argument that independent candidate will have no power in house of representative (DPRD) because there is no political party supporting their programs. If there is no consolidation between the governor from independent candidate and the parliament, the development will be impeded, even the government can loose people’s confidence. It is true, but as long as the independent candidate is consistent with his/her commitment in Pilkada and do his/her job based on the principles of Good Governance and Clean Government, it does not matter. The independent candidates should show a hardwork and consistency during his period if he won the election. If there are any frictions between him and DPRD, the candidate should show patience and political maturity to end the conflict. Thus, there should be capability to manage conflict by the independent candidate.

Another reason is the heterogenity of people in Indonesia. There will be many interest and platform that can block idealism of independent candidate. It is also true, but as long as independent candidate can control the conflict and capable to manage the people, it also will not bother too much. One that the candidate should do is making a priority scale during his period. Also, two-ways communication is very urgent to be built by independent candidate to avoid conflict because of heterogeneity itself.


According to Roosevelt (1910), democracy should be progressive. In Indonesia, one of the manifestation of progressive and substantive democracy is by legalizing independent candidate. Not just because of people’s legitimacy, but also the prospect to emerge people’s spirit for envolving in development. As long as the government could manage the mechanism of independent candidate to compete in election, there will be no hard obstacle in it.

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