Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Political Soap Opera

If there is anything to be learned from the bad blood between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla and the rift within the Golkar Party, it is that although loyal partners are getting more difficult to come by these days, politics is certainly becoming more riveting.

If anything, Indonesian politics is getting more and more like a daytime soap opera; a sinetron of political elitism and ambitions played out in a bubble, quite separate and out of touch with the real world of pragmatic and disinterested voters. It’s low-quality entertainment but addictive all the same, with the viewers wanting to know what other dramas lie in store in the next episode.

Even though they generate media excitement and influence TV ratings, those mindless soap operas that fill our TV schedules could learn a thing or two from our politicians about developing plots, crafting characters and creating dramatic suspense.

We know that in the world of politics there are no such things as permanent relationships, just permanent interests. Politicians fight, compete, carry out smear campaigns, form coalitions, seek out old enemies and then shake hands graciously, supposedly in the best interests of the country. As the saying goes, “He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day.” Parties lose but democracy wins. Today’s losers could be tomorrow’s winners.

Except, that is, when nobody wants to lose and parties care less for democracy than they do for power; when they care less about national interests than personal interests.

Politics does make strange bedfellows, but it looks like it also makes for very bad breakups and bitter divorces

Here on top of the political chess game of strategies and calculated moves, we also see an embarrassing display of overt emotions and personal sentiments: disappointment, bitterness, injured pride, betrayal, opportunism, backstabbing and the pursuit of revenge in a never-ending saga of broken trust, conspiracy and hubris.

Indeed politics does make strange bedfellows, but it looks like it also makes for very bad breakups and bitter divorces with unlikely love affairs and some pretty rotten matchmaking on the sidelines as well. All of these provide hot ingredients for a juicy drama with shady characters and improbable plots. And the story goes on.

Let’s see what story we have here.

With the dust of parliamentary elections settling, the curtains opens to reveal the true drama of the Golkar and Democrat families, whose partnership has provided us with our leading men over the last few years.

After a shaky five-year union between them, however, fortune has shifted greatly in favor of the Democratic Party after it emerged as clear winner in the legislative elections. President Yudhoyono clearly wants to see more commitment and loyalty in the marriage than he has been given by the wayward partner he’s had to put up with.

Then in a fit of pique and fed up with having to beg, Golkar threatens a divorce to save the family honor and preserve whatever shred of integrity the party has left.

The plot thickens, however, when other members of the family choose their private ambitions over pride and honor and decide they want to retain their place in the sun rather than be left out in the dark to languish in oblivion.

So what do we have? A drama that promises to be long and dreary. A tragicomedy involving a bunch of grumpy old men desperately trying to cling to their power even as they’re slowly slipping into irrelevance.

Sometimes I wonder whether these politicians really know what they are doing and why, or whether they deliberately go about things in the most unedifying fashion solely for our entertainment because they have nothing better to do.

Various surveys have consistently predicted the outcome of the elections and yet most parties still act as if their maneuvering and wheeler-dealing is going to make a real impression on voters, not just cause apathy or provide wry amusement.

For not once has any of the contesting parties shown any interest or concern in the welfare or future of the country. Not once have they appeared to have given any thought to how their existence has any relevance or adds value to the quality of the nation’s life.

Instead, lost in their own comic dramas, they continue to provide headline fodder for the media like a cheap but popular serial.

What’s scary is we’re not even anywhere close to the presidential election.

(Desi Anwar. First published in The Jakarta Globe)

1 comment:

  1. I love the word 'irrelevant' - it describes my feeling towards these old clowns.


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