Fighting Local Politics Oligarchy


Democracy that promises hope for political freedom, equality, and fraternity in the bonds of solidarity with empathy for the suffering of fellow citizens, threatened to be a string of out-of-reach values when various procedures, arena, and other democracies instruments were changed by a handful of people who have the capital strength and changed it into the strength of the political oligarchy.

The practice of political oligarchy, as commonly found in many places, oriented more to the accumulation and expansion of wealth and the increase of influence from family ties or political dynasty in controlling the government policy (Winters, 2011: 6). Indonesian contemporary political context, increasingly felt, how democracy is in the grip of political oligarchy, whether it is represented by the power of the old political actors from the New Order or the politics from the Reform Order. Style and the influence of oligarchs is not only felt in the national political circle, but also in the local politics circle (Prisma, 2014; Robison and Hadiz, 2004; Hadiz, 2010).

The grip of political oligarchy is indeed extremely worrying, however, various civil society-resistance forces are still hopeful that democracy is not easily changed and controlled by the oligarchs. A mix of civil society resistance to the process of law enforcement by the Commission for the Eradication of Corruption (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi, KPK) against corrupt officials began to reveal a surprising effect for the oligarchs and their supporters. For the oligarchs at the national level, they are still untouchable, as the KPK is receiving a counter-attack in return. For example, when KPK tried to dig on the political party politicians and the powerful people in the police force, two strong people from the KPK, which are Bambang Wijayanto and Abraham Samad suffered from criminalization and eventually resigned from their role at KPK.

However, the biggest achievement is the success of the KPK through the support of civil society in eliminating the influence of the local oligarchs which were the most vicious in the practice of rent seeking, state predatory, and political terror against social activists and were untouchable before, especially local oligarchs in Banten (Nordholt and van Klinken, 2007) and Bangkalan, Madura (Rozaki, 2015).

Two local oligarchs in this area have a common concept of power based on their ability to influence and control the violent groups, Jawara in Banten and Blater in Madura. The difference is, in using religious legitimacy, in Bangkalan there is a thick nuances.

The public was so enthusiastic about the courage and success of KPK to arrest and bring to justice two local oligarchs: Governor of Banten, Ratu Atut Chosiyah and Chairman of the Legislative Council in Bangkalan, Fuad Amin. The arrest of both by the KPK was very enlightening for civil society who began to lose hope, especially in Bangkalan, where the civil society was more active in conducting open-resistance against local political oligarchy.

The arrest of Fuad Amin (FA) at his residence in Bangkalan by the KPK for his involvement in the bribery case of buying and selling natural gas supplies for power generator in East Gili of Bangkalan, which also involved Antonio, Director of PT. Media Karya Sentosa, surprised the residents of Bangkalan in particular, who already regarded Fuad Amin as a “second God” as he managed to establish a political oligarchy through two social basis in the community, the social religious and social keblateran (local construction of the Madura people).

Social religious basis was built through his social construction as a descendant Syaikhona Khalil, a charismatic scholar who became a role model and icon of the Nahdliyyin spiritual diversity, particularly in Bangkalan, Madura. Fuad Amin politicize the charisma of Syaikhona Kholil to sustain his power. Social keblateran basis (the man of Madura) was also used through control of the Klebun (village head), who generally came from social blater basis. Its proximity to both social basis made FA known as Kiai Blater.

With these two social basis, the kiai blater is able to control the oligarchic political governance, not taking into account the role and function of the state and was busy taking care of his personal interests and of his family than the public interest. In addition, he also played an active role as a “voter broker” in different arena of electoral democracy for politicians who would like to gain votes to gain seats in legislative council and other presidential candidates, explained the existence of zero votes for the vote Jokowi-JK on Presidential Election in 2014 at some polling stations. At that time kiai blater be a successful campaign team member for Prabowo-Hatta.

Social basis and a strong political network made FA almost untouchable these past few years. For example, the controversial case of the use of fake diplomas in application as a regent, alleged corruption on Sambas refugee funds, and other misuse of budgets. Other than that, the longest Suramadu Regional Development Agency (Badan Pengembangan Wilayah Suramadu, BPWS) which obtained a mandate based on Presidential Decree No. 27 of 2008 to run the regional development after the construction of the longest bridge, various programs were ineffective and tend to experience stagnation because it did not accommodate the interests of FA who wished to enter into the structure of the steering board.

Organizing the Fight

KPK’s way to put an end on the influence and networks of local oligarchs in these two regions was based on the political opportunity structure, with the existence constellation and fragmentation of political elites at national level that affects the weakening of support for both local regimes (McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly, 2001).

In addition, dexterity and alertness of the KPK in collecting evidence, particularly through tapping, followed by the action of catching red-handedly. Signs of disappearance of the local oligarchs in Banten, starting from Chasan Shohib, father of Governor Ratu Atut which became the main anchor for support of power passed away. Chasan was known as a Champion, an entrepreneur with a strong network and political connections in various political groups, particularly in Golkar.

Disappearance of Golkar because of the internal conflicts of interest among its elites and other political opponents pressured to weaken the local regime in Banten gave a more flexible way for the KPK to eliminate the local oligarchs in Banten. Despite the strength of civil society pressure was not too great in giving resistance, the political opportunity structure that was characterized by a more powerful elite fragmentation became an entry favorable for KPK to reduce pressure on the national political level.

Something similar but with stronger resistance from its civil society occured in Bangkalan, Madura. Signs of Fuad Amin’s disappearance as a local oligarch began to be seen from a rift in both upper and lower layers of the structure that became the backbone of his power. The crack on the top layer began to appear, when he made a mistaken strategy to build political support for a presidential candidate in the 2014 Election.

Fuad Amin supported the pair Prabowo-Hatta. Had Prabowo-Hatta gained victory, perhaps the story would have been different. Fuad Amin’s political patronage networks at the central level would remain stable as it was during the SBY regime based on a good relationship with FA.

Jokowi-JK’s victory in the 2014 Presidential Election weakened the network of political patronage at the central level, and this opened the structure of political opportunity for KPK to be more intensive in stalking Fuad Amin until the momentum for his arrest arrived, when Fuad Amin’s proxy was caught red-handed in Jakarta, along with the Director of PT. Media Karya Sentosa and followed by the arrest of Fuad Amin by KPK investigators at his home, on Jl. Kraton Bangkalan City.

As for the bottom layer, which are the social activists who are also FA’s relatives, such as Imam Buchori Kholil, and civil society organizations such as LIRA (Lumbung Informasi Rakyat [Source of Information of the People]), CIDE (Center for Islam and Democracy Studies), BCW (Bangkalan Corruption Wacth), and other action committees worked nonstop despite having to deal with terrorism and violence, they criticized the Regents policy from FA for two periods and continued on by his son.

For example, Fahrillah an activist from LIRA, Ibnu Khotib and Mathur Kusairi activists of CIDE who have experienced assault and shooting because they actively criticized the Regents policies. Social activists in Bangkalan are very active in providing data to the KPK over a number of corruption cases allegedly involving local oligarchs. When KPK arrested Fuad Amin, these activists were also actively helping KPK to trace his wealth and assets in Bangkalan and outside of Bangkalan.

The arrest of Kanjeng, another nickname for Fuad Amin by KPK with his involvement in a case of bribery in buying and selling natural gas and money laundering, marking the collapse of the regime of his political dynasty. It gave an open space to the civil society activists in Bangkalan to encourage the process of democratization, improved governance to be more beneficial to the welfare of society.

Family political dynasty that put the father as Chairman of the Legislative Council and his daughter as the Regent, increasingly lost political support after the father was in arrested by KPK. As for Banten, the strength of its civil society is still in need of more organizing to shed the dynasty of Chasan Sohib as the relatives of Ratu Atut are still in power as regents and mayors in some areas that in the Banten province.

Lessons learnt from the two areas that was controlled by local oligarchs is that the significant synergy between the strength of civil society organizations with KPK plays a big role in law enforcement process, especially when the national elite fragmentation intensified and opened the political opportunity structure. We need each other to protect and prevent the control of the local oligarchs in changing the process and agenda of democratization.