In the Jakarta headquarters of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), workers call each other “bro” and “sis,” and their leader sets the sartorial standard with a pair of ripped jeans.
Dubbed the “millennials party,” the PSI is an upstart on the political stage of the Southeast Asian nation that hopes to tap into young voters’ contempt for the entrenched corruption and divisive identity politics of the ruling elite.
The downfall of long-serving autocrat Suharto in 1998 — amid a crisis widely blamed on a culture of nepotism and graft — brought an end to a regime of repression, but two decades later, the 190 million voters of the world’s third-largest democracy are still asked to choose from a crowd of candidates who began their political careers during that period.
Next year’s presidential election looks set to be a repeat of 2014, when Indonesian President Joko Widodo narrowly defeated Prabowo Subianto, a former armed forces general who was formerly married to a daughter of Suharto.
The PSI is one of four new parties the General Election Commission is allowing to contest next year’s legislative and presidential elections.
Two of the new parties are fronted by establishment figures.
The United Indonesia Party (Perindo) is headed by US President Donald Trump’s business partner in Indonesia, Hary Tanoeseodibjo, while the Berkaya Party is led by Suharto’s youngest son, Tommy Suharto, who advocates a return to the “New Order” values of his late father.
PSI leader Grace Natalie, a former TV journalist, believes the time has come for a new generation of politicians who would be genuinely accountable to the people.
Her party interviews members seeking nomination for a seat in parliament and live-streams the discussions on social media platforms.
Teachers, corporate lawyers, doctors and bankers are among those whose interviews have aired on Facebook and YouTube.
“No other party is offering what we are in terms of transparency,” she said at the PSI’s headquarters — referred to by party staff as “base camp” — where a wall poster urges: “Make Art, Not War.”
Natalie, a 35-year-old mother of two, set up the PSI in 2014, determined to offer an alternative for young voters.
It is a critical demographic, with people between the ages of 17 and 25 accounting for about 30 percent of the electorate.
Two-thirds of the party’s roughly 400,000 members are under 35.
The PSI relies on crowdfunding and donations to run operations across the vast archipelago of Indonesia, and to keep costs down it works from members’ houses and uses donated vehicles.
“This way, no one person can claim that they own the party. Everyone is contributing something,” said Natalie, who was educated in Jakarta and the Netherlands, and speaks proficient English.
So far, the PSI has raised 2.6 billion rupiah (US$180,000), a tiny sum compared with the coffers of mainstream parties that benefit from poor enforcement of laws limiting political donations.
It will likely also struggle to get traction with the young people it is targeting.
While the size of the youth vote has swelled from 18 percent of total voters in 2004 to 30 percent in 2014, the participation of young voters has dwindled.
Data from the elections commission showed less than half of voters between 17 and 29 cast a ballot in the 2014 legislative elections compared with about 90 percent among those over 30.
Ella Prihatini, a researcher at the University of Western Australia, in a survey of 253 young voters found that many of them were uninterested in politics.
“On parliament, the dominant answer from respondents was that their MPs are not actually representing them, so why bother voting?” Prihatini said.
Winning support is also likely to be particularly challenging for Natalie, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian, in a climate of religious and ethnic tensions.
Indonesia is secular, but concerns are growing about the Islamization of politics in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
Jakarta’s former governor, an ethnic Chinese Christian, was ousted last year after hardline Muslim groups organized massive protests over allegations he insulted Islam.
He was later jailed for blasphemy.
The 14 parties contesting next year’s polls include the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which leads the ruling coalition, several other secular parties, as well as rising Islamic-oriented parties.
Natalie, who plans to run for parliament next year, conceded she and the PSI need a far bigger budget to win support in rural areas, home to nearly half of Indonesia’s population.
Her party is backing Widodo — a popular moderate reformer — for re-election as president rather than trying to field a candidate of its own.
Ibrahim Irsyad Hasibuan, a 20-year-old journalism student from Tangerang outside Jakarta, said young voters are apathetic because they have no faith in the political system and so the PSI could be a wake-up call for his generation.
“But I can’t relate to PSI,” he said. “It is a new political party and has no track record yet.”
Singapore-based Control Risks political analyst Achmad Sukarsono was dismissive of the new party, arguing that an anti-corruption stance alone would not be enough to win over voters more interested in local and bread-and-butter issues.
“It is a nice utopian effort that shows desire for change from the educated, Westernized elite,” Sukarsono said.
Additional reporting by Jessica Damiana
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has been giving daily COVID-19 updates for almost four months, and on several occasions when major developments have arisen, the news conferences have attracted large numbers of viewers. The entire nation is anxious about the pandemic, and interest in the latest news has become a part of daily life. Watching the center’s daily news conferences has become something of a national ritual. The pandemic has stabilized within Taiwan due to the admirable efforts of each person living in the nation conducting themselves with the utmost responsibility, and in certain cases making considerable sacrifices within their
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. In that war’s aftermath, novelist George Orwell produced two prophetic works. The first, Animal Farm, was published in August 1945; the second, Nineteen Eighty-Four, came out in June 1949. Both still ring true and cover a wide range of messages, including even how the mid-sized nation of Taiwan achieved its democracy and why it still maintains an outlier status in a COVID-19 world. With its full planetary scope, WWII left untold millions dead and injured, cities were destroyed and the future path of most nations was altered. New
Israel-based geo-intelligence data provider ImageSat International on May 13 released a satellite photograph of the Chinese-controlled Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑礁) on Twitter. The image gave a clear view of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force Shaanxi KJ-500 airborne early-warning aircraft, KQ-200 anti-submarine maritime patrol aircraft and a suspected Changhe Z-18 anti-submarine helicopter, showing that the PLA has advanced its deployment in the South China Sea. Only last month, China established Xisha District (西沙) on Woody Island (Yongxing Island, 永興島) and Nansha District (南沙) on the reef, both of which fall under Sansha, a prefecture-level city established in
United States Senator “Kit” Bond (R-MO) was a real leader on Asia policy during his time in Congress. Like most senators, he had a ready one-liner for every occasion. The one I never tired of hearing is “Well, looks like everything has been said. The problem is not everyone has said it.” It’s sort of like with US-China great power competition. There is not much new to say. This is especially true because it’s largely a story of what’s already happened: BRI, Made in China 2025, aggression in the South China Sea, provocations on the Indian border, cyber-hacks, erosion of “one country,