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The Meaning and Purpose of Government and the Role of the Citizen in Southeast Asia (2)

1530–1700, Saturday 16 April 2016, C3

Sol Iglesias
National University of Singapore

List of Papers:

  • Paper 1: Estimating the Value of Incumbency: An Example from Indonesia’s Pilkada Serentak
  • Paper 2: Urban youth, representations, and anticipatory politics
  • Paper 3: The Parochialization of State Repression in the Philippines
  • Paper 4: Sarawak and Malaysia: The Prophetic Remarks of an Iban Paramount Chief


Paper 1: Estimating the Value of Incumbency: Evidence from Indonesia’s Pilkada Serentak
Melisa Bintoro
University of Cambridge

With the advent of decentralisation and democratisation across the developing world, local elections have increasingly become a prominent feature of the political landscape in many countries. Oftentimes accompanied by the devolution of service delivery, elected local officials are endowed with substantive decision-making capacities that greatly influence human and environmental welfare. Hence, the question of how incumbents are able to hold on to power speaks volumes on the quality of local democracy. While the incumbency advantage literature is well-established in American politics, it is less conclusive in developing democracies due to the empirical challenge of disentangling the benefits of holding office from incumbent quality. In this context, I depart from the regression discontinuity design by leveraging a natural experiment from Indonesia provided by the simultaneous elections – or pilkada serentak – that took place on 9 December 2015, which generates a plausibly valid counterfactual. My estimation strategy relies on the random variation in whether incumbents have access to office during the campaign period as a result of the move from staggered to simultaneous elections. An important feature is that if the tenure of the current district head ended prior to the election being held, a caretaker will be appointed by the provincial governor to govern during the interim. Concretely, this arrangement implies that some incumbents no longer have access to the perquisites of office, thereby unable to mobilise office resources for re-election purposes.


Paper 2: Urban youth, representations, and anticipatory politics

Kathleen Azali
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS)

With roughly half of the total population aged below 30 years old and increasingly dwelling in cities, urban youths in Indonesia find themselves facing contradictory expectations and representations. The recent elections and implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in Indonesia have indicated increasing emphasis on creativity, media and communication power such as visual media, humour, and information technology usually that overshadowed the political machinery and the heroic mould of youth or students as in the case of 1998 Reformation.

Through combined methods of media analysis, individual and group interviews, as well as ethnographic participant-observation, this paper seeks to investigate the complex and remarkably fluid relationships, practices, and identities of urban youths who were deeply involved in the production and circulation of visual media and information technology of such campaigns. I trace them back to the 1998 student movement, decentralisation and deregulation, and the complex relationship between the binary of heroic, productive working-class “pemuda” and apolitical, consumptive “remaja”. I argue that youths actively generate and configure their identities to gel themselves into translocal networks of relations and resources critical for further opportunities, networks, exchange, and livelihood. Information technology has played a major part in building these networks. However, beyond simple “digital divide”, these practices and engagement are implicated by growing control and lockdowns of this generative configuration, caused not only by Indonesia’s structural and infrastructural inequalities, but also its ad hoc attempt to enter global information-based creative economy.


Paper 3: The Parochialization of State Repression in the Philippines

Sol Iglesias
National University of Singapore

The Marcos dictatorship fell in February 1986, raising hopes for a consolidated and robust democracy in the Philippines. But in the past almost thirty years, optimism has dissipated in the face of continued state violence. Even if violent state repression has declined overall, the number of incidents of electoral violence and media killings has risen. Indeed, counterintuitively, where the central state has a “weak” security presence, anti-insurgency and extrajudicial killings of activists are higher. The weakness of the central state and the prevalence of local political bosses with private armies hint at the answer. Rather than viewing state repression as wholly directed by the center and conducted in pursuit of the state’s strategic interests, mechanisms of “parochialization”—propelled by local and particularistic interests—determine the direction and intensity of state violence. Such parochial interests include gaining and maintaining electoral office, protecting business interests (including illicit activities) and shielding the extractive industry from protests, among other motivations. These patterns of central direction, local motivation and central-local “co-production” are gleaned from detailed case files and media reports documenting extrajudicial killings, torture and forced disappearances in the past 15 years. The dismal level of human rights protection in this case study compels an examination of the reasons why repressiveness persists in democracies long after authoritarianism has ended—and without resulting in utter democratic collapse.

Paper 4: Sarawak and Malaysia: The Prophetic Remarks of an Iban Paramount Chief

Awang Hasmadi Awang Mois
International Islamic University of Malaysia

When the federation of Malaysia which involved the merger of the states of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah was about to be established in 1963 one of the key players in the negotiation process, the paramount Iban chief called Temenggong Jugah anak Barieng made an ominous remark in Iban regarding the new political entity called Malaysia that was about to be created: Anang aja menua Malaysia tu baka tebu, manis di pun, tabar di ujung. In English it means, “let us hope that Malaysia will not be like the sugar cane, sweet in the beginning but dismal towards the end.” The aim of this paper is to discuss Sarawak’s experience as a founding member of the Federation of Malaysia and why after a period of sum 52 years in the process of nation-building and independence there are not loud voices of happiness, but rather a growing discontent and disillusionment among many Sarawakians with the federal entity that they had helped to create and built with the other political partners. As a social anthropologist and a native of Sarawak it is the intention of this paper to discuss the major social and cultural factors that have influenced the calls among a large number of Sarawakians for a review of Sarawak’s position in the federation.