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93 6 A balancing act: relations between state institutions under Yudhyono Stephen Sherlock When Susilo Bambang Yudhyono was sworn into office in October 2004, he was stepping into a set of constitutional arrangements and political circumstances that was without historical precedent in Indonesia. Following the constitutional reforms of 1999–2002, Yudhoyono faced the task of managing new and untested relationships among the major institutions of state, especially between the presidency and the parliament (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR). But while Yudhoyono was Indo­ nesia’s first directly elected president, popular and elite views of the office of the presidency were characterised by a sense of continuity rather than difference. There was a widespread, if unspoken, assumption that Yudhoyono was occupying the same office as his predecessors, just doing so in a democratic environment. Echoing this default view, Anies Baswedan (2007: 232) explained that ‘an important and enduring feature of Indonesian politics has been the dominance of the president. … Indonesia ’s first two presidents set a precedent for the role and stature of their successors’. Clearly, the towering figures of Sukarno and Suharto had stamped an indelible impression on the minds of Indonesians that the president was the most powerful personage in the land. This left a legacy of expectations for Yudhoyono about the supposedly superior role and power of the presidency. Thus, when the parliament , with its new constitutional powers and popular legitimacy, asserted itself on a number of occasions during his presidency, some observers believed that the relative powers of the executive and legislative branches had become unbalanced and, even more importantly, that the DPR was attempting to usurp the powers of the president (Susanti Update book 2014-15.indb 93 19/04/2015 11:39 am 94   The Yudhoyono Presidency: Indonesia’s Decade of Stability and Stagnation 2006; Indrayana 2008: 274–5). Common arguments were that Indonesia had moved from an ‘executive-heavy’ system under Suharto to a ‘legislative -heavy’ system in the democratic era and that Yudhoyono’s reform agenda had been obstructed by reactionary forces in the DPR (Perdana and Friawan 2007: 19; Purnomo 2008). However, there have been few scholarly studies to test such assumptions. This chapter discusses the ways in which Yudhoyono managed the relationships between key state institutions in Indonesia’s reformed presidential system. The first section shows that Yudhoyono inherited a presidency whose relationships with other parts of government, especially the legislature, were still in the process of redefinition. The second illustrates how Yudhoyono, like Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Sukarnoputri before him, attempted to build an all-inclusive governing coalition, following a pattern of ‘promiscuous power-sharing’ that some scholars view as characteristic of democratising governments following extended periods of authoritarianism and political uncertainty (Slater and Simmons 2013). In the third section, however, I argue that Yudhoyono’s grand coalition strategy could only have succeeded under an interventionist president prepared to lead and discipline his cabinet —which Yudhoyono was not. The fourth section explores claims that Yudhoyono’s administration was stymied by an obstructionist parliament , arguing that—in fact—the DPR had little effective capacity to exercise its new powers. In the fifth section, I show that the reform-resistant civil service was a much bigger factor than the DPR in determining the content and level of implementation of policy. The sixth section demonstrates how Yudhoyono occasionally attempted to circumvent the power of the bureaucracy by establishing special units, although, in practice, a lack of clearly defined powers and inconsistent political support from the president himself eroded their effectiveness. In the conclusion, I consider the legacy of Yudhoyono’s uncompleted tasks for future Indonesian governments. YUDHOYONO’S STARTING POINT: CONSTITUTIONAL AND POLITICAL LEGACIES It has often been overlooked that the 1945 Constitution actually described a president whose powers were potentially circumscribed by the People ’s Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat, MPR), a quasi-legislative body. According to the underlying doctrine of the Constitution, it was the MPR, not the president elected by it, who ‘exercised in full’ the sovereignty of the people. More concretely, the elucidation to the Constitution stated that the president was to be ‘subordinate Update book 2014-15.indb 94 19/04/2015 11:39 am A balancing act: relations between state institutions under Yudhyono   95 and accountable’ to the MPR (section 6(IV)). Therefore, the MPR—as the highest institution of state with the powers to appoint and dismiss the president and set the ‘guidelines of state policy’—could have greatly constrained the president’s effective power. In the...


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