Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

Democracy and Foreign Policy-Making in Indonesia: A Case Study of the Iranian Nuclear Issue, 2007-08

Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

Democracy and Foreign Policy-Making in Indonesia: A Case Study of the Iranian Nuclear Issue, 2007-08

Article excerpt

Although foreign policy-making remains a state-centric and essentially executive-driven process in Indonesia, domestic political forces have begun to play an increasingly influential role in the conduct of the country's foreign relations. In line with political reforms introduced over the past decade, constitutional amendments allow the Indonesian Parliament (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR) to review the country's foreign policy and ratify international agreements signed by the government. (1) In addition, in recent years, Indonesian society as a whole has become much more aware of foreign policy issues, both in Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. The impact of these two factors on foreign policy decision-making in Indonesia is clearly demonstrated in the case of the country's voting behaviour in relation to two United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions concerning Iran's nuclear programme. Having been elected as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for the period 2007-08, the Indonesian government engaged in high-level decision-making on a variety of international security issues, including Iran's nuclear programme. In 2007, Indonesia supported UNSC Resolution No. 1747 which imposed international sanctions, including an arms embargo, against the Iranian government for its uranium enrichment activities. (2) However, in 2008 Indonesia abstained in voting for Resolution No. 1803 that imposed additional sanctions on Iran, such as travel bans, and commercial and financial prohibitions. (3)

How Indonesia handled this issue in the arena of domestic politics presents an interesting case study that supports a long established theory in International Relations literature on the domestic accounts of foreign policy-making. (4) Following Indonesia's support of Resolution 1747, President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono's administration was subjected to sharp criticism from many socio-political groups, most notably Muslim mass organizations. (5) Meanwhile, less than two months after the adoption of the resolution, President Yudhoyono announced he would reshuffle his cabinet, a move that displeased some political parties in the ruling coalition. (6) Many party elites went on to condemn Resolution 1747, while members of Parliament exercised their "right of interpellation" (hak interpelasi) to summon the President to explain why his government had supported the resolution. (7) This article will argue that such political manoeuvres on what was ostensibly an international issue were in fact intimately linked to squabbles and disenchantment over cabinet posts. (8)

Despite the technocratic nature of Indonesia's foreign policymaking, domestic political forces have gained new powers in the post-Soeharto political system. These actors are most likely to exert their influence on Indonesian foreign policy if it affects their collective aspirations and political interests. This article seeks to analyse the political context in Indonesia that led to the government's decision to abstain from voting for Resolution 1803. The paper is divided into three sections. Firstly, it provides a conceptual framework on the position and role of domestic political forces in shaping Indonesia's foreign policy. Secondly, it examines how each social-political actor perceived Resolution 1747. Lastly, it assesses the extent to which these groups have been able to influence the dynamics of the Indonesian government's decisions in voting for UNSC resolutions on Iran.

Conceptualizing Indonesia's Contemporary Foreign Policy Formulation

Foreign policy is state-centric by nature. It comprises a set of measures and guidelines pursued by a state towards external actors or specific international issues. Foreign policy-making is essentially an executive-formed and elite-driven process. The executive actor here refers to agencies and officials within the government's bureaucratic structure. Functionally, these actors hold the primary responsibility to formulate and implement foreign policy decisions. …

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