Book Discussion on ‘The Coalitions Presidents Make’ with Assoc. Prof. Marcus Mietzner at UIII

June 29, 2024

Contributor: Achmad Jatnika | Editor: Supriyono

Hosted by the UIII Faculty of Social Sciences, Political Expert Marcus Mietzner, an Associate Professor at the Australian National University, discussed his newly published book “The Coalitions Presidents Make: Presidential Power and Its Limits in Democratic Indonesia” at UIII Campus in Depok, on June 26, 2024. 

Prof. Mietzner, a renowned expert in Indonesian politics, began his deep engagement with the country during his initial visit to Jakarta in 1986. Since then, he has authored numerous influential research articles, focusing on the dynamics of the Indonesian military and political parties. His work particularly emphasizes campaign financing, elections, and comparative electoral politics in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, showcasing his extensive expertise in these areas. 

In his discussion, Prof. Mietzner highlighted Indonesia’s unique condition, saying that it has had a stable political condition in the past 20 years since the election of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2004. One indicator of the political stability was that the country had not faced any impeachment or attempted impeachment in the last four periods of the presidency. 

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The condition came as a surprise given the pre-2004 political turmoil, where the country’s presidency has been in turbulence since the 1998 Reformation, following a series of events like the dismissal of former president B.J. Habibie by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), impeachment of former president Abdurahman Wahid, and the loss of Megawati Soekarnoputri in her bid for presidential re-election in 2004. 

Prof. Mietzner argued the political stability that Indonesia has been through for the past 20 years was influenced by the government’s move to create a large coalition, that is not only built among the politicians but also with the non-party actors such as the military, the police, oligarchs, and religious groups.  

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He explained that President Yudhoyono's presidential move, for instance, includes the radical Islamist fringe in his broader parameters of coalitional presidentialism, setting the tone for systematic compromises on democratic quality in the name of political stability. This was also supported by President Joko Widodo’s move to create an 82% parliamentary coalition.

“In his second term, Widodo’s coalition controlled 82 percent of parliamentary seats, and the size of Yudhoyono’s coalitions was not much smaller,” Prof. Mietzner noted. “In the knowledge of the Coalition, the larger the coalition the bigger the influence of president is,” he added. 

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Despite the political stability it has created, Prof. Mietzner, however, warned about the potential unfavorable outcome, arguing that a large coalition can cause democratic decline. Furthermore, coalitional presidentialism provides the framework for actors to take advantage of the president's genuine or perceived vulnerability to demand the restoration of previous privileges or the granting of new ones.

The discussion with Prof. Marcus Mietzner was part of the Brownbag Talk hosted by the UIII Faculty of Social Sciences, inviting experts on politics and international relations to discuss contemporary issues in the fields. The talk has attracted critical dialogue and exchange of ideas between faculty members and students at the faculty, supporting UIII’s mission to empower academic communities and foster global outreach through critical scholarly discussion.