Arab Spring refers to the democratic uprisings that arose independently and spread across the Arab world in 2011. The movement originated in Tunisia which began on Saturday, December 18, 2010. Because of Mohammed Bouazizi, a college graduate, who did not get a formal job then sell fruits and vegetables at the market until Tunisian police evicted him and confiscated his wares. Frustrated by the loss of the place and his wares, he set himself on fire in front of a local municipal office. Small scale demonstrations then began in Sidi Bouzid, Bouazizi’s hometown, and spread throughout the country. According to Aljazeera English, “Bouazizi’s act of desperation highlights the public’s boiling frustration over living standards, police violence, rampant unemployment, and a lack of human rights.” Bouazizi’s act created solidarity from majority of Tunisian, which then risen up against the corrupt and repressive government. This act also spread in many Arab states and overthrown some Arab dictators, including Tunisian President, Zein El-Abidin Ben Ali.
Until now, the revolution is still ongoing in Syria, and perhaps in some other places. The people went on strike, demonstrations, and marches, in protest against the government. They also used social media to organize and communicate among them. The main slogan of the demonstrators is Ash-shab yurīd isqāṭ an-nizam (the people want to bring down the regime).
If the Arab Spring is understood as an attempt to overthrow the power of government, it was happened in Indonesia before. Indonesian people had brought down their president at the time, Suharto, who could not run the government well.
During Suharto’ era, people depressed because of the tight control of the law that led to intimidate the people. In addition, corruption was spread and done by almost all government officials. Government debt was growing up and making people suffering. This situation was not too different with what happened in the Arab world today. But the difference, the Indonesia reform did not sacrifice the blood of many people, while in the Middle East, the government is killing the people to protect the power. However, there are many little influence because of Arab Spring in Indonesia, particularly in economics and politics.
In the economic field, the revolution in the Arab world led to rising oil prices. It can be understood as the Middle East has huge oil reserves in the world. Noted, nearly 65% of oil reserves is in the Middle East. Although Indonesia has oil reserves, but can’t provide its domestic needs. For that, Indonesia has to import oil from the Middle East. As an effect of the Arab Spring, oil prices rise, so impact on Indonesia’s economic policy. Inevitably, the Indonesian government should raise the price of oil too. But the plan was rejected by people and Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (the House of Representatives). However, this plan worried the Indonesian and even has made up prices of basic commodities, so eventually led to demonstrations everywhere.
In political field, the Arab Spring has alarmed and worried Western countries. They fear Arab Spring will affect politics in Indonesia which is the largest Muslim country in the world. To secure their assets, Western countries, particularly the United States, plans to put the marines in Darwin. Presumably, this plan is to secure U.S. assets in Indonesia, such as NAMRU 2 (The U.S. Naval Medical Reseach Unit Two), Freeport in West Papua, and several other valuable assets.
This worry is reasonable, because since the Arab Spring many demonstrations reject Western’s involvement and its allies in the Arab World in Indonesia. Muslims, which consists of students, activist organizations, participants of political parties are also rejecting Western intervention in the Arab world. The protesters went to the representative offices of Western nations, burn their national flags, and even pelted with eggs and tomatoes. Moreover, some non-government organizations open the registration for volunteers who want to fight in the Middle East driving the Western colonizers out.
In addition, the Indonesian government is not been idle on the chaos in the Middle East. Indonesia, as the member of the non-aligned countries, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the member of UN, expressed to everyone to refrain from war in the Middle East.
Arab Spring or the revolution in the Middle East is a lesson for everyone not to be oppressor and dictator that suppresses others. The spirit of revolution also must be kept. The Middle East people can take a lesson from Indonesia which has experienced the revolution before. After nearly 15 years, since the fall of Suharto from his power, Indonesian people have great hopes to reform. The corrupt system that exists in Suharto’s era was expected to be lost and replaced with a transparent system; Indonesia’s debts could be paid; killings, arrests, and human rights violations would be eliminated.
But there is shocking news, a survey done by Indo Barometer said that ex president Suharto better and popular than the current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. From the survey, fifty percent of respondents believe that their lives have not improved today, while more than a one-third chose Soeharto as their favorite president. 36.5 percent of respondents chose Soeharto as a best president, then SBY (20.9 percent), Sukarno (9.8 percent), Megawati (9.2 percent), BJ Habibie (4.4 percent), and Abdurrahman Wahid/ Gus Dur (4.4 percent).
And more surprising are 40.9 percent of respondents from the rural and urban residents said that the New Order regime under Suharto better than the reform era. Only 22.8 percent said that the reform era is better than the previous, while 3.3 percent preferred to be under Sukarno’s era/ Old Order.
Are the survey results of Indo Barometer showing that Indonesian reformation failed? The answer is probably, because of four presidents who were guarding the reforms have failed to rival Suharto himself. The failure of the reform can be seen from the failure of change and improvement in all areas. The current reformation is only a change of control or change of ruler. After all this time, the reform did not result the improvements for citizens. There are several aspects showing the failure of reform.
First, the reformers have less knowledge, insight, and sharp analysis to guard, monitor, and do best after reform. They should realize that long regime of Suharto has a strong and wide network. It looks from the president, some members of the council, some ministers of cabinet, and bureaucrats, who currently serve are “built” by the New Order. Second, the reformers have less knowledge of conflict management. Reform is a period of transition, a period of change, which needs togetherness and cooperation of all parties. But very unfortunate, the reformers mutually competed and dropped among them to gain a power in government. After getting the power, they forgot the ideals of reform. It brings other adverse effects, such as the corruption still exists, a lot of unemployment, poverty, foolishness, and others.
The survey results of Indo Barometer should be a guide for the Indonesian government to resolve the problems in reform era and also be an assignment for Muslim in Indonesia which as a majority to keep, control, supervise, and give meaningful input to the new government to do better than before. This political history of Indonesia also can be a lesson or mirror for the societies of Middle East.
Kontributor: Harda Armayanto
Trackback from your site.