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Asian Opinions

Thursday, Jun 12, 2014

Asian Opinions

'Comedy of Errors' and other Indonesian political farces

The Jakarta Post/ANN | Thursday, Jun 12, 2014

Indonesia's presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto (2nd L) greets his running mate Joko Widodo (C), next to vice presidential candidates Hatta Rajasa (L) and Jusuf Kalla (R), before their presidential debate in Jakarta June 9, 2014. Indonesia will go to the polls to select a new president on July 9.

Do you like comedy? I love it. Not so much The Three Stooges slapstick type, but more farcical drama such as Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest or Moliere's Tartuffe (aka The Impostor or The Hypocrite).

With their buffoonery, horseplay, ludicrously improbable situations and exaggerated characters, they are enormously entertaining. What I also like about farce is the way it turns something that is supposed to be serious into a foolish show, a mockery or a ridiculous sham.

In that case, I should love the current presidential election campaigns (pilpres), which have more than their fair share of farcical absurdity, right? So, how come I've been feeling increasingly distressed, appalled and sick to the stomach as I witness the comedy of errors of our so-called democratic election?

There are many things that are deeply disturbing - the cast of dodgy characters, the lies, the hypocrisy, the turncoats, the opportunists, the unscrupulous characters, the vote buying and those practicing what we call in Indonesian "menjilat ludah sendiri" (literally "to lick back your own spit", meaning, to recant). Even Jusuf Kalla himself once declared that Joko "Jokowi" Widodo was not fit to be a presidential candidate, but here he is now, as his aspiring vice president. Hello?

I guess that's real politics for you huh?

The most perturbing part of the election however, is how some people could get into the race at all, given what they represent: abuse of power, human rights violations, militaristic rule and elitism despite their populist rhetoric.

Who are they fooling? Dodgy and unsavory vestiges of Soeharto's authoritarian regime, they are Tartuffes, posing as leaders who care for the people and the nation, but in reality they are power junkies.

That these putrid leftovers want to hang on to their hegemony is natural. But the fact that we, the people, allow this to happen, is deeply disturbing.

It's true that all nations have their maladies. One of Indonesia's is denial, big time - an unconscious defence mechanism to protect us from unwelcome truths about ourselves. We're not alone in this: Japan, Cambodia, China, Guatemala are also afflicted with this malady, among many others. There are even Holocaust deniers, despite the fact that the Holocaust is one of the best documented events in history. Some even say that Adolf Hitler was the best friend the Jews had in Germany, and that he actively worked to protect them. That, dear reader, is beyond risible.

Despite being plagued by human rights violations allegations, Prabowo Subianto must be a more charismatic figure than Hitler as he has managed to charm and recruit several former activists whom previously his troops had allegedly kidnapped and tortured.

Pius Lustrilanang, Aan Rusdianto, Haryanto Taslam and Desmond J. Mahesa are four of the activists allegedly kidnapped by members of a special forces unit under the command of then Lt. Gen. Prabowo. However, they joined Gerindra, Prabowo's party and hold important positions. Is this a case of Stockholm syndrome, when captives grow to feel attachment to their captors?

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