Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Twin Suns: Yudhoyono & Kalla

Respected Suara Pembaruan daily in its editorial today called the competition between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla as the existence of The Twin Suns in Indonesia’s government.

I believe most people agree with the term as reflected in the way both leaders competing to respond public pressure and the way they govern the country in the last few months. Some says it just a matter of different style, but others said it is fundamental problem with deep roots.
While the pair was claimed as solid as Soekarno-Hatta (Indonesia’s first president and vice president) in their campaign to win the presidency last year, day after day people watch the cracks between them.
The worst is in the last two months after the significant drop of Indonesian rupiah and step increase in oil prices altogether raised the concern of budget sustainability. When public criticized heavily the performance of economic ministers and market lost trust on them in handling the crisis, Yudhoyono responded with a signal to reshuffle his cabinet. But Kalla defended economic ministers saying that’s not the solution to the crisis. Golkar Party (led by Kalla) then soften its demand on reshuffle and asking more seats (seven compared to two seats now) instead. Meanwhile Democrat Party led by Hadi Utomo, Yudhoyono’s brother in law insisted to have the economic team reshuffled.
At the core of the conflict is domestic fuel price. Both leaders realized that maintaining the current highly subsidized fuel price could put the state budget in danger and put rupiah under enormous pressure. So they basically agree to raise fuel price. But both failed to agree on timing and scale of the price hike. As a result, public is confused with their conflicting statements almost everyday.
Kalla said the fuel price should be raised soon, while Yudhoyono said early 2006 will be the best. Under budget pressure, Yudhoyono then changed his position saying it could be raised sometimes in October or November. But after that, Chief Economic Minister Aburizal Bakrie (Kalla promoted him last year) said government could speed up the fuel price hike.
Yesterday, while Yudhoyono in his US trip, Kalla said October 1 will be the timing for new fuel price. But today, Yudhoyono through his spoke person Andi Mallarangeng said the president did not make decision yet on the timing.
Yudhoyono’s decision to lead cabinet meeting from US employing daily teleconference was first seen positively, but slowly raise eyebrows of politicians. Some said it is a vote of no confidence on Kalla and blamed the vice president for his absence in some video conferences. But today Golkar today come to Kalla’s defense saying he is loyal to the president in a respond to previous statement made by Minister for State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra that Kalla is not in the position to make any decisions while Yudhoyono is away.
The competition is not something new though and its happen in almost everything including appointment of directors at big state-owned companies.
“Now we have Kalla Guys and Yudhoyono Guys at these big corporations. Appointment of PT Telkom CEO was a clear example of such competition. And it happens again in the process to appoint CEO at Pertamina,” said a former minister under Abdurrahman Wahid administration.
He remembers few years ago when relationship between Laksamana Sukardi (then Minister for State-Owned Enterprises and close ally of VP Megawati Soekarnoputri) and Wahid worsen because of competition to control SOEs. It was ended when Wahid fired Laksamana, but few months later it was Wahid’s turn as he was fired by People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR).
“I am afraid the history is repeating itself now,” he warned.Well, for sure, its almost impossible to be like the tale of Wahid and Megawati (Wahid’s successor) as Yudhoyono and Kalla was directly elected by people. But I just worry of the fact that this is less than one year of their administration. How about the next four years with two suns? Isn’t that just too much?

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