First Article in Kompas

Inspired by my last post, I tried to write a more systematic yet press-friendly article about the Indonesian millenials. And it was published by Kompas on December 28. So happy!


On Indonesian’s Millennials

We often tempted to characterize millennials as a new voting block as oppose to older generations. This is especially true in Indonesia, where young people comprise a big chunk of its population. But how different actually millennials are? Our common understanding mostly said that millennials are more open, more tolerant, etc. But the recent CSIS survey on millennials surprisingly revealed much more bleak depictions about their social and political attitudes. Prompted by the recent Jakarta’s election wherein the Chinese incumbent candidate’s Basuki Tjahaya Purnama was beaten badly by the Islamist supported candidate’s Anies Baswedan, we asked the following question: “Would you be willing to accept a leader whose religion is different from your own”? Bear in mind that around 90 percent of Indonesians are Muslims. So this question essentially indicates their willingness to be led by non-muslim. The result shows that around 54 percent of millennials rejected this idea, compared to only 39 percent of them who said the opposite.

Another question asked their attitudes towards minorities such as LGBT member. The survey asked: “Would you be willing to accept LGBT communities”. Though it might not be surprising to see the majority of youth in Indonesia will confront the LGBTs, but knowing that around 95 percent of them cannot accept LGBTs is still startling, at least for myself.

There are a bunch of other questions in the survey that will prompt you to think twice about how different actually millennials are.


Me and Music

These days, I seem to spend time for music as much as I spend time for doing political science. I do love music. I remember I’ve begun collecting cassette records when I was in middle school. Aside from several Indonesian bands, my brother introduced me to listen to western rock bands like The Calling, Coldplay, and Oasis. Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head and The Calling’s Camino Palmero, for instance, have never failed me.

Then back in high school, I took my music to the next level. My friends and I forged a band. We were not that good at playing instruments though. But there was a regular art performance coming down. And we believed that we had to perform something to look “cool.” So there you go. We rented a studio. We practiced music a lot more than we had for our exam days. And crazily enough, we took sometime to practice in the midnight on the third day of national examination because our school was going to hold a farewell event for us right after the national exam was over! Yes, it was crazy. But looking back, it was worth experiencing too.

The upside of having a band in the past transcended when you start listening to music of your interests. This is something that I bumped into quite recently. During my grad school years, I was given privilege to get access to record stores – the independent ones. America was such a heaven for music junkies. Independent record stores were perhaps literally available in every corner of the town, including in small counties like Athens, Ohio where I lived.

Despite the presence of big corporation like Barnes & Noble or Amazon, independent record stores, and so do indie bands, withstand. The stores catered vast collections of used CDs and vinyl records from hugely different artists from various genres. With very affordable prices. Starting from $2 or $3, you can get your all-time-favorite albums on your pocket.

And by chance, I lived with a roommate who liked to buy CDs. He told me to come to local record store near campus to look around. So I went there. I ended up buying two or three CDs (Bob Dylan and Pat Metheny’s albums) to be played in my music player I inherited from my Indonesian’s mate who was about to move out of state.

I didn’t really figure the keen experience of listening to music until quite recently. My music playlists were used to be exhausted me. The playlists were barely improving. Perhaps because by then I was not literate enough to a set of ‘good’ music playlists. But I’ve come to like watching some blues and rock covers on youtube for quite awhile. These covers enthralled me. There was hardly a night passed without watching some covers. I wanted to learn that. So I thought it’s time to buy me a set of music gears. I decided to buy a used Fender electric guitar, an amp, and an effect – all from online stores.

As a student, these gears ripped me off. But they helped me a lot to keep me sane. In fact, music was a great escape when I felt fed up with politics. Likewise, getting your hand an instrument makes you become more sensitive about sound, rhyme, beat – all those stuff. And the side effect of that is that it induces you to listen more, meaning, in my case, buying more CDs! So whenever I got a chance going out of Athens, I made a visit to used record store. It was a great experience. Getting to record stores and finding your favorite albums in there, I bet you, is an experience that cannot even begin to compete if you listen to your music from youtube or simply download it from iTunes.

PKI and Sukarno in the Words of Suharto

I’ve never found any works on Indonesian massacre of 1965 referred to Suharto’s own words on why and how did he purge the Indonesian communists (or allegedly communists). This video below is mesmerizing to me as it shows, at least, why did he take a strong force against PKI in 1965 and, consequently, the feuds he had on Sukarno during the raucous time of 1965.

Suharto revealed that he had warned Sukarno since 1958 about the potential recurring rebellions of PKI when the two met in Central Java. When Sukarno made a visit, Suharto was a then-military commander of Diponegoro area (it covers the whole territory of Yogyakarta and Central Java).

Central Java was considered the center of electorates of PKI. As such, PKI won in Central Java in 1955 election. Suharto assumed that the greater PKI could endanger the army power – as it should have been obvious as PKI did two early rebellions in Java back in 1926 and 1948. These rebellions were recent enough to put PKI always in likely confrontation against the army. But when Suharto told the president about his anxieties, Sukarno was getting grumpy. Suharto said he was blamed by the president (“saya dimarahi”). Paraphrasing Sukarno, Suharto said “the strong PKI is the fact. They earned power from people. That’s the power that must be taken. We have to make them comply with PKI Pancasila” (“Itu kan kenyataan (PKI kuat). Kan PKI dapat dukungan dari rakyat. Itu harus kita perhatikan. Sekarang bagaimana caranya kita berjuang menjadikan PKI itu PKI Pancasila”). Suharto also said that communism, along with nationalism, and Islam, had been the ideals that Sukarno proudly sold to the world (“Nasakom itu adalah jualan bung Karno ke dunia, termasuk ke PBB”).

Thus it becomes clear for the young general that the president himself will always back the communist party. Nonetheless within such a raging context, we don’t yet to have any hints whether the systematic plans of coup existed within the army. There is no plot that convinced scholars about whether Suharto carried out or planned the coup from the very scratch. In fact, the coup of 1965 was not at all look like the recent failed coup in Turkey. And if Suharto, after all, did a coup, apparently it was not planned as such. At least it was not until the killings of 6 generals in the night of October 1 that changed the game. Suharto and the army saw the support from people has swung toward him and then he confiscated the power from Sukarno – who shunned putting PKI in the sideline in the aftermath of October 1.

So, in retrospect, what we seen is more about a situational yet rational response from the army (or Suharto) too deal with intense pressures in the midst of post-Gestok rather than a committed and planned taking of power from Sukarno. This is the insight of Asvi Warman Adam, a historian, who dubbed the 1965 coup as the “creeping coup” (kudeta merangkak). For Asvi, the transfer of power from Sukarno to Suharto took place in a number of sequential steps: (1) The killings of general October 1  1965, (2) the issued of Supersemar on March 11 1966 through which Suharto granted discretionary power to dissolve PKI, (3) the rejection of Nawaksara Speech of Sukarno in front of parliament (MPRS) on June 22 1966 that caused the immediate termination of presidential position from Sukarno as the parliament’s mandatory, and (4) the appointment of Suharto as acting-president on February 22 1967.

But, for sure, this situational response comes at the expense of unimaginable ramifications for Indonesians in the years to come, particularly to those allegedly communists.

On Jokowi’s Cabinet Reshuffle

The announcement of Jokowi’s new cabinet has elicited a fair amount of attention in Indonesia. This is the second time Jokowi harnesses his discretion to change the composition of his ministers. The first cabinet reshuffle was done in August 2015, less than a year after Jokowi holds office, wherein 6 new ministers were inaugurated. 4 out of 6 ministers were coming from economic portfolio, which in itself signaling the strong drift of the president to jump start Indonesian economy. The recent reshuffle was quite similar. At least 10 out of 13 ministries were from economic sectors. Some ministers were reassigned to new ministerial positions while some others were completely being sacked.

Nonetheless, I think the new emerging phenomenon from Jokowi’s presidency is his arousing awareness to widen public support for him. This awareness is less visible during his first year. For example, none of 4 ministers in the first round of reshuffle were coming from political background. They don’t have a strong social base either. They are, using a common term in Indonesian politics, technocrats or professionals. The term foreshadows the differentiation with other ministers from political parties background who, most of the time, have been less favorable in public eyes than the technocrats. While the rest of two ministers, Luhut Panjaitan and Pramono Anung, were high rank politicians that are indispensable if president Jokowi expects political support from parties.

Nonetheless, the second reshuffle signals that the president is now more willing to share power with his allies. Two parties, Golkar and PAN, have demonstrated their willingness to join cabinet. This leads them to ministerial-granting policy. Golkar’s cadre was elected as minister of industry and PAN’s cadre was being minister of bureaucratic reform. Aside from that, Wiranto, the chairman of Hanura party and a tainted, retired general with a bleak human rights record, was elected as coordinating minister of political, legal, and security affairs. And Enggartiasto Lukito from Nasdem party was to be trade minister.

The joining of Golkar and PAN has allowed Jokowi to reap remarkable support in parliament. By adding to PDIP, PPP, Nasdem, and Hanura, his coalition is now controlling 386 seats compared to opposition parties, which only pose 113 seats (excluding Democrat party which remains neutral).

Many people start jeering at Jokowi because of his decision. Indeed, at the beginning of his presidency, Jokowi was known for his unapologetic rhetoric for not “bagi-bagi kursi kekuasaan” (a power-sharing strategy in exchange of political support). This rhetoric doesn’t hold anymore. But people who jeer at him are missing the point.

The gripping political power is a bless for any politicians. In many occasions, this means having an unambiguous support from parties and mass-based organization. Jokowi seems to realize this when he has been about two years in power. For example, the rest of 3 ministers in current reshuffle were not from economic sectors. But they offer clear electorates for president. Wiranto is the chairman of Hanura; Asman Abnur is PAN member; and Muhajir, the minister of education, is a high rank official of Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim organization in Indonesia.

In Wiranto and Muhajir cases, their appointments spark controversies. Wiranto is a scandalous figure to be appointed amidst the government efforts to commence investigations over past human rights violations. He was deemed responsible during riots 1998 and the kidnapping of several activists when he was acting as the commander of the military. Whereas Muhajir’s appointment was less on his personal credibility. It is because he replaces Anies Baswedan, a clean and popular figure among Indonesians, especially the youth. I in fact happened to support Anies in 2014 presidential race. He sought a presidential nominee via the Democrat party’s convention. He failed at the convention, yet switching to take side on Jokowi thereafter. Jokowi appointed him as spokesman during his fierce campaign against Prabowo Subianto. After Jokowi won the election, Anies was chosen as minister of education. Indonesians greeted the appointment of Anies, partly because he has engaged in education issues in Indonesia, inter alia, as the founder of Indonesia Mengajar. But the president seems to eager to widen his public support by choosing Muhajir. This is not to say that Anies doesn’t have public legitimation. He does. But his “political price” is modest than Muhammadiyah, who hasn’t been instated in the cabinet yet.

The president has enjoyed strong bases more than ever. He has been stronger politically and socially. The complicated question now is, will he succeed?

Comparative Historical Analysis

I am drawing up a plan to learn more about comparative historical analysis (CHA). This is a profound approach in comparative politics in which (regrettably) I don’t feel to have enough exposure in grad school. My encounter with CHA was made through comparative politics’ courses in my department, but not by way of technical-method courses alike. So when I took democratization’s class, for example, I got a chance to read Moore’s Social Origins or Skocpol’s State and Social Revolutions (surely not in its entirety). I got a sense of what the authors were talking about. But I did not necessarily grasp about how can the authors validate or not to validate their arguments? I mean, how can we convince several main factors trigger macro structures like revolutions, democracy, institutions, etc to set in? The CHA answers to that might rest on the “complex interplay” of many forces where the events or places are taking place. It thus compels us to read extensively about history before making an argument. To be sure, clearly nobody wish to write something considered too simplistic or too narrow. But complexity is explained once a clear framework proposed.

Apparently my experiences in writing papers thus far suggest that writing a kind of historical papers are a way harder than quantitative ones. One seeks to write a historical paper, I think, will always start with ideas or problems that interest him most. Once he knows the ideas, he can start sorting out data or information from a wide range of sources that fit into his ideas. So ideas come before data. The latter is quite different though. In my experiences writing quantitative papers, I never, and cannot, start with ideas. Indeed, I didn’t know what to write before I look upon my data. When data available, I usually start running various regression models to see what I can come up with. A glimpse of ideas pop up, but quite often unsettled. So I run another model again up until I got a better sense about what I am going to write. When I see interesting yet unexpected findings in my data, then I can start thinking about the best conceivable framework to put the findings in a coherent manner. Then I start writing. I nearly begin with “data or research design section” first. Then writing the results, or the main body of the paper before working on literature review. So it is a bit in a reverse order compared to that of you read in a “normal” paper.

Back to CHA, I am eager to learn more about this, as I know my research plan will be much related to history. There are some compelling sources to begin with. For a starter like I am, an excellent piece would be Lijphart (1971, 1975), Skocpol & Somers (1980), Steinmo & Thelen edited volume (1992), and Mahoney & Thelen (2015). Also there is a good article from Slater & Ziblatt (2013). All give you a proper framework to work in the field of CHA.

MA Degree

Sorry if this post sounds vaunting: I now formally hold an MA in political science. Alhamdulillah. I began my program in August 2014 and finished on April 29 2016. I remember during my orientation days in Bali back in the mid 2014, a senior told me that my time in the US would be the quickest time I can ever imagine. “So try to get the most out of it, you’ll be surprised when you finish” he said. He is right. Time flies so fast and all of a sudden I am now on the verge of my departure to Indonesia. But I am not that sure if I’ve used my time here to the best I can. I could have done better if…(well, too late for excuses :)). But anyhow, I am counting my days in the US.

Regime durability

Building on my previous post about “stable regime” and its relationship with economic development, I figured that I haven’t made my mind clear yet. It was vague terms what do I actually mean by “stable regime” and “development.” In fact, both can be disaggregated into different levels of category. Stable regime could be associated with (1) whether or not a regime change takes place; (2) whether or not protracted intrusions appear to destabilize a government ensue. So stable regime could mean an unabated government that lasts up to today without serious contentions outside ruling government/party. Think about North Korea, China, or Singapore, for example. The three countries have been governed from the same regimes/parties since they got independence (or China at least since 1949).

Other than that, it remains hold that regular competitive elections have less to do with regime change. In democratic countries, chief executives came from one party to another through elections. They were elected via popular votes. But despite governments have changed via elections, regime persists. So a government does not necessarily mean a regime. According to Schmitter and Karl (1991) “A regime or system of governance is an ensemble of patterns that determines the methods of access to the principal public offices; the characteristics of the actors admitted to or excluded from such access; the strategies that actors may use to gain access; and the rules that are followed in the making of publicly binding decisions.” In their definition, I cannot help but think government as an actor, as a verb that has to do with “governing” activities whereas regime is more an adjective, a word to be used to attribute “an ensemble of patterns” in government.

Polity data allows me to examine the impacts of “stable regime” to my outcome of interests on development. There was a section called “regime durability” in the dataset that defines stable regime exactly as I wished to do. It defines regime durability as the number of years since the latest regime change takes place or the end of unstable periods either from democracy or authoritarian. It was started since 1800 to 2014, covering 199 countries and polities throughout the world. So for example, Indonesia underwent a transition from “new order” to democracy in 1998. It means that its democratic regime has lasted for 18 years. While the United States has arguably never been ruled by an authoritarian regime as Indonesia had. The US regime has lasted since all the way back in 18th century (it has been lasted for 214 years using the Polity’s definition). China’s regime has endured for 65 years and 49 years in Singapore.

I was interested to see what impacts regime durability has on a specific case of development, which is, the quality of governance. The WGI provide a number of handy indicators pertain to the quality of governance, ranging from voice and accountability, political stability, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, to control of corruption. An intuitive understanding will say that the developed countries will have better quality of governance than their developing countries counterpart.

Additionally, there are some other possible predictors that may affect governance. The enduring colonial legacies have been seen as a source of underdevelopment in the Global South (see the works of Acemoglu & Robinson). It is also possible that the choice of either democracy or authoritarian institution affects your governance. The same is true for the choice of presidential and parliamentary system.

So how does regime durability affect the quality of governance? Lets do some simple regressions. I incorporated six governance indicators of the WGI to get the mean score for each country and calculated the longevity of regime durability of each country using the Polity dataset.


As you can see, regime durability has positive results in all proposed models, even after we control for other possible predictors. Authoritarian regimes tend to have bad governance than democracies. Colonial legacies have arguably no impacts on governance, (well ok, this might not be problematic because I used countries of origins instead of specific colonial legacies from colonizers). And as you might expect, the levels of GDP per capita (I used log measurement) have all positive results in 4 models.

If the results withstand, these could be a good start explaining the importance of regime durability on governance. We have to find what are the rationales behind these results which must be non tautologies from economic development/modernization explanations. Regime durability must also be treated independently from the regime types (democracy/authoritarian/hybrid). I’ll post again on this later on. Just keep watching this space.

Counting My Days

If everything goes well, I’ll be graduating on April 29. A set of graduation requirements have been met. I did my comps last week and submitted my capstone paper pretty early. I just need to work on three term papers (one paper down) for which I supposed to finish in the coming week.

Other than that, I cannot help but feeling some pre-graduation blues. At times, knowing soon you can no longer here to stay in a place you love make you a bit more reflective; you start to value people more or start thinking about what you should’ve or haven’t done. Grad school is more than just readings, papers, and library. There are knowledge and wisdoms to be discovered out of classroom. Yes I know it’s bit melancholic and I despise this. But I think anyone who happened to be in my position may feel the same. As your time is approaching, you start thinking retrospectively about your ways.