Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Dirty coalition

While Krugman is worried about the "Rambo Coalition" in US, I'm scared of the 4-party coalition in the ongoing Indonesian presidential race. Our case is even worse: it's a coalition between the biggest three parties (PDI-P, Golkar, and PPP) plus a strong new comer (PDS) to support Megawati. Why bad? Because it's an unholy alliance. The former three have been known as long time enemies, as they are the traditional competing parties thus far from 1950s until the fall of Soeharto. (The latter one is only a new kid on the block, but has scored quite a success in the legislative electorate). This coalition (they call it "Koalisi Kebangsaan" or "nation-state coalition"-- what a misleading name!) is simply a bunch of greedies trying to beat another running party. Wanna bet? If -- I say if -- SBY, the other candidate, happens to be the one elected as president, these people -- Akbar Tanjung of Golkar, and others-- will immediately leave that coalition (and most likely start kissing SBY's a**, for a position in the cabinet).

So much for shallow politics. Where is the economics? Kevin Murphy and Andrei Shleifer write in May 2004 AEA Papers and Proceedings (subscription required) about "Persuasion in Politics". Murphy-Shleifer insightfully present a model of social network creation and how politicians might use it to obtain support. The idea is that "... people are influenced by those inside their networks, but not by those outside, because those inside a network talk to and persuade each other...". Who forms the network? It's entrepreneur. Such "entrepreneurs" use core issues important to members and then "rent-out" the networks to politicians who seek votes. Sounds familiar? Yes, Akbar Tanjung, Hamzah Haz, and ... -- who's that guy from PDS again? -- are all entrepreneurs trying to lure out Golkar, PPP, and PDS constituents to joint force and then rent them out to Megawati. Money talks, bulls**t walks. But wait a minute? Will that work? Murphy and Shleifer argue that such network should have at least some close "distance" among its elements, in order to be effective. Distance here can be regarded as "circle of influence" (my marks). And that influnce comes from "friendships, emotion, or group identity". OK, now you know why I call Akbar Tanjung's coalition as "unholy alliance". It won't work. Distance between Golkar and PDI-P is well too far. So is between Golkar and PPP. (Well, they do have close distance: greed! But that's not what it should be). No wonder, within a week of its declaration, the coalition already have to face resistance and reluctance from their constituents. Even, there are heavyweights in each party opposing the coalition. This coalition is a joke.

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