Jakarta – Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) political observer Hermawan Sulistyo believes that promoting the achievements of Suharto's New Order (Orba) regime in the 2019 presidential elections will not prove attractive to the millennial generation.
According to Sulistyo, only particular groups will be attracted by the issue. "Only a crazy person would want to return to that regime. A life full of fear every day", said Sulistyo during a discussion at the offices of the Populi Center in Jakarta on Thursday December 6.
Sulistyo is convinced that you just can't sell the New Order to the millennial generation which is curious about history and in general wants to know about what really happened during the New Order era."Many millennial kids are smart, they investigate, open old files, so they know who the human rights criminals are, who ransacked our economy", he said.
According to Sulistyo only millennials who tend to be indifferent and some older people who fell they were better off during that era will be attracted to this New Order nostalgia.
"Millennials who don't have a sense of curiosity may perhaps be attracted, be interested. Older people, who took part in the repression, will of course be interested. But this doesn't represent a lot of people", he said.
A different view was conveyed by Sunanto, the central leadership board chairperson of Muhammadiyah Youth, the youth wing of the Islamic mass organisation Muhammadiyah. According to Sunanto, the New Order is still sellable among some groups in the presidential election campaign.
"Don't assume all millennials are the same. The Orba segment is still big, not to mention those who hope for the prosperity of the past", said Sunanto.
He admits however that there is a quite a big gap between this and attracting the interests of the millennial generation in the New Order. "Unless there is some new idea that emerges. If not then a point of agreement is still some way off", he said.
Both camps have New Order tendencies
Sunanto believes that the presidential candidates (capres) contesting the 2019 presidential elections – incumbent President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and former Kopassus (Special Forces) General Prabowo Subianto – both have New Order tendencies.
"Actually both capres have Orba characteristics, but with different perspectives", said Sunanto.
Nevertheless, Sunanto is of the view that the group which is most inclined towards continuing the spirit of the New Order is the camp supporting Prabowo and his vice presidential running mate Sandiaga Uno. On several occasions the Prabowo camp has brought up the achievements of the New Order under Suharto.
The camp supporting Widodo and his vice presidential running mate Ma'ruf Amin meanwhile, said Sunanto, still has a number of New Order era figures who are part of the Widodo-Amin election campaign team.
They include, among others, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan and Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs Wiranto. "One is perhaps part of his group, the other is involved in his policy making", he said.
Because of this therefore, in his view both presidential tickets have equal potential to apply policies which are not very different from those of the New Order.
Sunanto also believes that New Order tendencies have continued to emerge during the era of reformasi – the political reform process that began with the overthrow of Suharto in 1998 – such as power cartels, corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN) and a tendency towards authoritarianism.
"If these three characteristic have persisted to this day then it cannot be said that we are now in reformasi. If they still exist it means that the characteristics of Orba still exist", said Sunanto.
The Prabowo camp has often touted the achievements of the New Order era under Suharto's leadership. Moreover if Prabowo and Sandiaga are elected in the 2019 presidential election they say they will take up the spirit of food sustainability which was pursued by Suharto.
Suharto's second daughter and chairperson of Tommy Suharto's Working Party advisory board has said on her Twitter account that it is time for a return to the era of Suharto's leadership which [it is claimed] achieved food self-sufficiency, received international acclaim and world recognition. (pris/pmg)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Pengamat: Hanya Orang Gila yang Mau Kembali ke Rezim Orba".]