To vote or not to vote, that is not the question

Among the basic rights of any citizen, soldiers included, is the right to vote. But this has not been the case for members of the Indonesian military (TNI), who last exercised this right in the country’s first general elections in 1955.

In fact, since 1971, soldiers had been barred from voting. In return, the TNI was given fixed seats in the national and local parliaments, although the practice was discontinued after 2004.

The “national consensus” back then was that historically, political bickering had ruined the military’s internal cohesion and had even led the country to the brink of civil war. Hence, to prevent politicians from meddling in the military to score electoral points, the military’s voting rights were “suspended”.

Recently, however, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono tried to reverse this long-standing practice when he announced that the military should not be deprived of the right to vote and suggested that the TNI could vote in the 2014 general elections if its members were ready to do so.
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The ‘Yudhoyono paradox’

When President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was inaugurated for a second term three months ago, public expectations of the former military general went through the roof.

Not only did Indonesia survive the global economic crisis relatively unscathed, his Democrat Party had also tripled its votes and got Mr Yudhoyono re-elected with the largest mandate in history. And along with his coalition partners, his party also dominated the House of Representatives.

Yet, as Mr Yudhoyono marked his 100 days this week, not only is the gap between policy promises and deliverables appearing to grow wider – public unhappiness towards his government is also manifesting itself in the form of one demonstration after another.

In fact, any policy initiatives or achievements on the part of his government appear to have been overshadowed by the current political melee.

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