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Constructing the Indonesian presidency JAKARTA - Presidency has been defined, among others, as the collective administrative and governmental entity operating in a presidential office. Presidency varies from one state to another and from one period to another in a single country. Sukarno's presidency differed from Soeharto's, B.J. Habibie's, Abdurrahman Wahid's and Megawati Soekarnoputri's.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's presidency has been projected as a White House, West-Wing style entity, in which the President is surrounded by his most trusted aides in a presidential think tank. A discourse on this presidential entity has emerged recently. The President and his inner circle are important elements of the presidency. He is in a position to color the leadership style.
In accordance with Preston's categorization of leadership styles (2001), a president could become a magistrate, having limited policy experience but in much need for power; a delegator, having limited policy experience and a low need for power; a navigator, having extensive policy experience as well as high complexity; a sentinel, having extensive policy experience, but low complexity; an observer, having limited policy experience, yet high complexity; or a maverick, showing both low complexity and limited policy experience.
Susilo's style of leadership could fall between a navigator and a sentinel. His inner circle comprises individuals having direct access to the President and the power to shape his opinions and positions on particular issues. How they interact with the President could be collegial, competitive, triumvirate or hierarchical. The President has the authority to set the rules of the game for interacting with his inner circle. The President also could develop layers within the inner circle in order to prevent a mind-boggling interface.
No plan has yet been revealed by the new President on how the inner circle of 10 to 11 individuals and others outside this group will be accommodated in his presidency. These individuals have been involved in setting the agenda and in programmatic discourse since the pre-presidential investiture stage at Susilo's private residence in Cikeas, or even earlier.
Are they going to be institutionalized under the West-Wing style presidency, or will they become independent and on-call counselors to the President? Or are they going to be mandated to chair presidential commissions or supporting agencies? Hopefully, a better picture will emerge about these matters soon. Since a presidency can grow an epistemic community of its own, the President and his inner circle could both serve as mentor and student to each other. Sharing knowledge and experience among them will be a useful exertion.
Members of the inner circle are expected to help the President in dealing with the paradox of plenty, especially in the abundant information to be used as a basis for decision-making. The presidential leadership should remain in command of such interaction in order to prevent intrusive exercises from the inner circle.
A presidency should not be bogged down by details, which should be tackled by departments and other governmental agencies. A president devises a grand and strategic design and lets his ministers tend to the details. Presidential directives are to be concise, straightforward and clear. Meanwhile, ministers are required to be responsive and capable of turning the directives into workable fine points.
A presidency should be guided by moral character. It should become neither a Hobbesian nor Machiavellian entity. Professionalism coupled by moral fiber could become a powerful driving force in the work of the presidency.
It is also important that Susilo's presidency avoids the possible emergence of the "groupthink" phenomenon coined by Irving Janis (1972). According to Janis' study, groupthink occurs if a group assisting the president makes faulty decisions. Presidential directives affected by groupthink could end in fiascoes. In the history of the American presidency, the Bay of Pigs incident and the Vietnam War -- and perhaps the current Anglo-American invasion in Iraq -- are some examples of groupthink consequences.
Susilo's Camelot of most trusted aides should be aware of this phenomenon and its dangers. While toil is emphasized as a work ethos, it is not sinful if the Indonesian presidency proceeds steadily from a dutiful presidency to joyful one. A study of American presidency by Ellis indicates that in 19th century, the presidency was a duty and burden, yet these days, the presidency could display fun-in-work.
An earlier study by Barber (1972) demonstrated that a healthy presidency could be measured by the degree of pleasure that a president enjoys in exercising their political power. It is widely known that Susilo is a serious and methodical individual. Perhaps, in bringing joy amid pressure, Susilo's presidency could be both dutiful and joyful at the same time.
Constructing a presidency is an unremitting process. It is an important process that, with endurance and proper cultivation, could lead to a strong and competent presidency. It is also important to the foundation of tradition and character in the Indonesian presidency. Hopefully, Susilo and his inner circle can contribute to the construction of a viable Indonesian presidency.



Posted in Elections @ 25 October 2004 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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