26 Mei 2010

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The Democratic Party in need of Anas

Anas Urbaningrum finally succeeded in securing the post of Democratic Party chairman on Sunday. He secured 280 votes over the 248 votes gained by the other candidate, Marzuki Alie.
As a whole, he won 280 of the 531 votes in a two-tier election at the party’s national congress. This result had been predicted by many over the past few weeks.

Despite a less intense media campaign, exceptional support from the party’s provincial and district boards made this victory even more visible and telling.
Anas’s success was not, in fact, an overnight project. His personal records confirm his lengthy experience in the political arena. He was chairman of the Islamic University Student Association (HMI) during his university years.
In 2002, he was part of Team Seven, headed by Ryaas Rasyid, tasked with laying the groundwork for the three political law packages (covering the general election, the political party, and the structures of People’s Consultative Assembly and the House of Representatives) and the local autonomy law.
His political interest seriously intensified when he was appointed member of the General Elections Commission (KPU). Prior to his involvement in the Democratic Party, he had been, and still is, a prolific writer, producing a legion of books and writing articles for both Indonesian dailies and weeklies.
The mixture of political proficiency and experience, therefore, increasingly renders Anas’s new post as Democratic Party chairman no longer arguable.
Anas’s triumph over Andi Mallarangeng, the favorite candidate, proves one lucid point; both Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and the Democratic Party are in dire need of Anas, for the following reasons.
First, the SBY factor will play a determining role in safeguarding and mapping the course of the Democratic Party in the times to come. It remains unchanged not only to keep bitter rivalries at bay but also to be the rallying figure to allay potential conflict between vested interests within the inner circle.
The party’s members, to be honest, acknowledge and are aware of the conflict that seems to be
taking place without SBY getting involved.
Learning from the country’s fragmented political parties, it is likely what ultimately frustrated every Democratic Party member was the potential of a soaring political schism which, in turn, would have wound up in political bankruptcy and restored no public legitimacy.
Anas is perceived to have a comprehensive understanding of such a vision of SBY, without being regarded as in close proximity to SBY, a strength that Andi had.
Despite the fact that he was a latecomer to the party compared to Andi, his involvement as the most prominent party campaigner during the 2009 election and his fighting for the Bank Century case in the House bode well for his track record.
Andi’s major flaw is to look upon SBY as his mentor a little too much. In doing so, he manages to respect SBY as the party’s ideologist on one side and looks upon himself as the party’s strategist on the other. This measure would certainly risk preserving the personality cult in this supposed-to-be modern Democratic Party.
Second, Anas represents an intellectual politician, while Andi is seen as good-looking. Democratic Party members seem to have learned that celebrity politicians do not benefit the party.
They are convinced that down-to-earth intellectual politicians are more inviting and long-lasting to attract constituents.
Compared to celebrity politicians, intellectual politicians are capable of educating and enlightening
the large number, and the less erudite, of the grassroots and floating voters.
While his political brightness legitimizes his credibility among the party’s scholars and politicians, his low-profile behavior serves to cope with politicians’ notoriously known reputation for their overpromise and under-delivery.
As for Andi, the public are more familiar with his looks than his brains. Apart from his PhD in politics from Northern Illinois University in the United States and the proceeding organizational background, his frequent appearance in public and proximity to SBY have placed him as a promotional political figure, not the party’s strategist. Being a “selling point” is never long-lived and is subject to crises of public confidence.
Third, Anas upholds the party’s creed, that is to say, nationalism. For him, hurting the creed of the party would result in both a crisis of confidence and disappearing public support.
Anas perseveres in making use of domestic elements in his political moves, such as the mass media and networking at home. He is an authentic nationalist vying for standing on his own two feet.
Moreover, Anas actively visited a legion of provincial and district branches across the country which make him closely bound to the party’s cadres.
Anas shows us that a more collegial campaign approach proved to determine his victory, instead of relying too much upon extraordinary media campaigns and financial backing.
In contrast, Andi went along a different path. His involvement in Fox Indonesia, established by his brothers Choel Mallarangeng and Rizal Mallarangeng, to bring SBY to his second presidential term is seen by many as greatly contributing to his loss for the party’s top post.
The going got worse, as Andi appeared unwilling to routinely tour the party’s provincial and district branches seeking support.
Public aspirations remain. In return, rather than enjoying the party’s top post, party members prevented him from exercising control over the party’s course. Andi paid for the blunder he made, making his expectations unreachable, as the saying goes, they “burned far from the fire”.

The writer is a lecturer at Andalas University, Padang. He graduated from the University of Canberra, Australia.
opini the jakarta post 26 mei 2010