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Pemilu 1997

Differential equity and/or a moral renewal

As Indonesians begin to ponder the full implications of the economic difficulties they
now confront, they will begin to look for reasons as to why the economy imploded.
This report reviews possible conclusions that parts of the community may reach. This
has important social and political ramifications should these conclusions lead to
follow up demands for reform.
To put the economic crisis in its full perspective, I believe there can be do doubt that
the current difficulties surpass any of the challenges met, and overcome, during the
past 27 years. This means that the current problems exceed those which:
• accompanied the tight monetary conditions in the wake of financial deregulation in
the late 1980s;
• followed the collapse of oil prices in mid-1986 which led to the collapse of the
Government's main revenue source and the country's major source of foreign
• arose from having to manage the macroeconomic fall out from the oil price booms
of the mid and late 1970s;
• followed the revelation of the scale of debts accrued by Pertamina by 1975.
Reaching back to this point in time, therefore, takes us back to the early years of the
New Order.
Under conditions in which the country's economic fundamentals have been so
significantly undermined, it would therefore be rather Pollyanna-ishly optimistic, if
not folly, to assume that Indonesia's social and political fundamentals will remain
What are the likely fault-lines, which could be pried opened by the economic
pressures now bearing down on the community? To gain a better insight, I should
detail the current causes of the economic pressures and how people are being affected.
Indonesia is currently suffering from 2 pairs of problems, a quadruple wammy!
The first two relate to currency and finance markets. In many respects these two
problems shattered 2 core assumptions which have underpinned Indonesian (and other
regional) growth centres over the past few years.
These assumptions were that the world would continue to pay for Indonesia's excess
consumption (revealed through the current account deficit) without a currency
correction, and second that the financial sector (local and foreign) would be willing
and able to continue rolling over short term loans for long term investment projects.
Until the end of July, both assumptions held firm.

{This report was for me the first serious attempt at trying to consider where the crisis would take Indonesia. At the time I do not think the term Reformasi had yet been popularized. In my mind the term to describe this need for renewal would be “pembaharuan”, rather than the bastardized English term reformasi that did emerge. In my view the depth of suffering that would occur through this emerging crisis was such that people would be forced to engage in some kind of introspection as they seek to understand just why they were being affected like this. Under such circumstances it would seem normal that people look to moral (or perhaps ethical) answers to understand and then redress these problems. In the case of Indonesia the answers would, of course, be sought most substantively through Islam as the religion of the overwhelming majority of the population. The footnotes in this document were added on 31 December 2006, as I reviewed the original document – all with the comforting distance of almost 9 years of hind–sight! The comments are intended to provide both a little historic context that may now have been forgotten with time and also to provide some auto–criticism of where I believe my analysis was flawed or perhaps biased. From the original document I have also corrected typing mistakes and grammatical errors without changing the integrity and substance of what was initially written. The footnotes therefore do not represent part of the original document.}


Polling day: 1997

After the election blackout which started from Sunday night, polling took place in Thursday 29
May 1997.
I was in Jakarta and decided to check out the scene at some polling stations. I was especially
keen to see polling stations where civil servants voted. There was a widely held view among the
public in those days that the vote was not secret. People firmly believed that the Government
“knew” who you had voted for. All manner of interesting theory were offered to explain “how”
they knew; eg. civil servants paraded out one by one and voted one by one and staff from the
same directorate placed their votes in the same ballot box one by one. This meant they could
trace the order of votes taken from ballot box and identify who each staff member had voted for.
Or the polling officers would sign each ballot, which is used to authenticate the ballot paper, but
that the signature varied for each voter. This meant that the vote and the version of the signature
of the polling officer could then be matched to catch anyone who was naughty.
I was able to see polling take place at the Ministry of Justice. The longer I watched the process
the less convinced I became that it was at all possible to “know” who had voted for whom,
certainly on the basis of these most common theories to explain “how they knew”. Interestingly
I did come across a senior civil servant who deliberately placed a vote for another party (PDI) –
just to see what would happen. Not surprisingly the next day they started rounding up the young
men around the office with long hair to find which of them it was. One suspects that had the
deviant vote gone to PPP it would have been the pious ibus in jilbabs on the receiving end of the
search and correct orders!
I suspect this whole exercise actually demonstrated that “they” did not know who staff voted for.
Indeed far more importantly than whether they did know was the general atmosphere. There was
never any serious attempt to convince voters that the vote was secret. The result was clearly one
in which perception was far more powerful than reality. The perception (belief) that the
government knew who you had voted for was more than sufficient to maintain the discipline of
staff voting for Golkar.
Besides the Ministry of Justice I went back close to my office which was at the Stock Exchange
building. Along the front of Jl Sudirman in front of the building there were three polling stations.
One was clearly being used by staff of the Capital Markets Supervisory Agency, Bapepem,
which weas and is part of the Ministry of Finance. As the count began here, it was clear that
Golkar was getting virtually all the votes. In the next polling station, which those at the site
humourously referred to as the “private sector” polling station the vote was more mixed.
One of the truly great aspects of the Indonesia’s electoral process (that mercifully has been
retained during Reformasi) is the fact that votes are cast and, once polling closes, are then
counted on the spot in front of anyone from the community who wants to watch. And there are
usually lots of people crowded about. The atmosphere is invariably a happy one. Each vote is
removed from the ballot box, held up in front of party scrutineers and pollworker staff and also
to the watching public, then the vote announcer declares solemnly some thing like “valid vote 1”
(for PPP), “valid vote 2” (for Golkar) or “valid vote 3” (for PDI). As the votes were read out a
fourth category came to be announced more than three times more often than votes for PDI, that
is “invalid vote”.
In general a vote for PPP was received with a happy applause, a vote for Golkar with a polite
clap while a vote announced for PDI was greeted with a laugh. The best and most enthusiastic
response was reserved for those votes which were invalid (usually considered to have been
deliberately spolit by voters angry at the political system).
By 1997 I had discovered that great God-send of the Jakarta public transport system, namely the
ojek2! As a result I decided to take a wider look about the city to see who was voting and how,
and then how many votes they got once the votes were counted at the polling stations.
After the visits to the Ministry of Justice and around the Stock Exchange, I headed out to see a
number of different communities. During the next couple of hours until about the time of
darkness, I visited polling stations in Tanah Abang, Glodok, Tebet, Kemang and Kebayoran
Polling night
On the evening, I made my way to the LPU (now KPU) to begin gathering the hourly provisional
count. It was quite clear quite early that PDI’s vote had evaporated and that both Golkar and
PPP were making gains. I decided that between visits to the LPU I would spend some time at
PPP HQ. The atmosphere was quite upbeat, although they still believed they had done better
than the results seemed to be showing.
I had the chance to have a great chat to one of the MPs from PPP. I asked him whether the party
had ever considered the possibility of “opening” itself to religious minorities. He actually
confirmed that there were some in the party who did think this was the way to go. In response to
his questions I said that I had a Sino-Indonesian friend who was a Catholic. When I asked him
who he would be voting for, he said bluntly that he would be supporting PPP. I asked why. He
explained that he saw PDI as nothong more than a rabble. He thought Gokkar was too long in
power and was lazy, arrogant and corrupt. He said he knew PPP was an Islamic party but added
that he believed they were not fanatics and that at least you knew where you stood with them.
At this point my PPP friend burst out laughing and said that might well explain why they had
won a polling station in Glodok (Jakarta’s Chinatown). He said they were mystified as how that
could have happened – delighted of course, but still mystified.
The results
The big story of these elections was the collapse of the vote for PDI. It imploded from 15% to
3%, or a loss of about 80% of its vote of 1992. While everyone was expecting the PDI vote to
fall badly, I do not believe anyone actually projected it would be able to fall so far. I tried to be
creatively destructive with potential PDI vote results looking at each province to see how far the
PDI vote could realistically fall. If I recall I guestimated that the result would be to fall to about
6%, so I was still way too conservative. I recall calculating that the results would stretch way
beyond credibility (to the point of becoming a political liability) if Golkar’s vote was able to
exceed 74% of the vote. (I do not recall why I decided that 74% was the outer fringe of
credibility, but it may have been because this figure was just above the 1987 result for Golkar
which was about 73%). In some was my assumption that Golkar’s result could not be allowed to
be “too good” ultimately limited how far I could conseptualise PDI’s vote could fall.
Obviously I assumed that PPP would do well, but was not sure how much better it could be at
PDI’s expense. Either way these results were a huge victory for Megawati who had called upon
the people not to bother voting.
PDI’s vote fell in every province. The least severe falls were in East Timor (down 15%) and
West Kalimantan (down 30%). The biggest fall was in Jakarta, where memories of the violence
by government supported thugs against the party to discredit and remove Megawati were still
fresh. In Jakarta the party lost 92% of its vote.
Golkar’s vote nationally rose by almost 6.5 %. Its best improvements were made in areas where
it had performed poorly in the previous election, namely in Jakarta, Central Java, South Sumatra
and Bali where the party produced double digit gains. Less impressive improvements were
recorded in other provinces, but then again once the vote is already over 90% there is not much
more than can be gained! Overall the party enjoyed an improved vote in every province. It
lowest concentration of support remained in central and eastern Java.
The results for PPP were mixed. Overall it enjoyed a positive swing of 5.4%. The picture by
province, however, was varied. A slight improvement in the big province of North Sumatra was
not enough to stop a further decline in support across the northern half of Sumatra. The picture
across the southern half of the island was for a marginally positive improvement.
PPP’s best improvements were across Java with the party gaining one third of the total vote in
the huge province of East Java and almost one third in Jakarta. Meanwhile in the largest
province, West Java, PPP secured over 25% of the vote. Overall its vote rose in 17 provinces
and fell in 10.

These notes were put together in June 2008: some 11 years after the events of the 1992 elections. The notes represents my clearest recollections and impressions of the time. Polling day was Tuesday, 29 May 1997.


On the streets during the 1997 Elections

The atmosphere on the streets during the 1997 elections was quite different to that in 1992. That
year the atmosphere was a kind of rebellious joy. In 1997 the atmosphere might best be
categorised as sullen resignation.
The mask of respectability which the New Order had long sought to promote – certainly to the
urban middle classes, had been peeled back most violently with the goons mobilised to raid PDI
HQ on 27 July 1996 in order to force the removal of Megawati as General Chair of this party.
Indeed as noted in earlier reports (June 1994 and Mar 1994), the Government’s performance in
managing the political dynamics of the country had been, at times, quite woeful and its response
overly heavy handed – the picture of sledge hammers and ants rather springs to mind. While
such tactics might have still worked in rural areas far from TV cameras and the emerging
chattering classes, the use of such tactics in the big urban areas was less effective and tended to
provide fuel to subsequent protest for a later era.
The scale of the street parades was not much different or smaller than in earlier elections, except
those for PDI, which were a little limp.
As in the election of 1992, one still gained the impression being amongst the crowd that even
these election campaigns still played a role of letting people let off steam.
The sullen atmosphere gave a sharper edge to the knife edge than was felt in 1992. The fact that
these elections also degenerated into considerable violence with several hundred people losing
their lives was perhaps not surprising.
What did it mean?
Setting aside the sullen atmosphere of 1997, I would say the same thing about the dynamics of
these elections as in 1992. This is as follows:
While the general atmosphere was clearly one of [joy and] “letting your hair down” there was at
the same time a very clear awareness that the atmosphere was actually knife edge. Flashing the
wrong finger signals (that is for another party) was very clearly understood to be the last thing
one would ever do and live to talk about it. Even I sensed that. So if it was PPP or Golkar or
PDI the right fingers went up on the right day.
At the time of the election I wondered why this knife edge atmosphere should exist – so happy
but could so easily turn so nasty. At the time I thought that the reason related to a couple of

These notes were put together in June 2008: some 11 years after the events of the 1997 elections. The notes represents my clearest recollections and impressions of the time.


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