IN INDONESIAN LOCAL POLITICS:
ASE STUDY OF THE 2005
REGIONAL ELECTIONS IN GOWA,
SOUTH SULAWESI PROVINCE
Michael Buehler and Paige Tan1
If we had known we would only get $60,000 [from our candidate], we could as
well have taken somebody from inside the party. Why should we support a
candidate from outside the party if we only get $60,000? People from within the
party could have paid this much as well. We hoped for $200,000. If there’s a
candidate outside the party who is able to pay this, we will support him [in the
next elections]. If not, we will take somebody from inside the party.2
—Amir Uskara, Head, Partai Persatuan Pembangunan, Gowa
Interviewed about his party’s role in the 2005 regional elections in Gowa, South
Sulawesi, local Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP, United Development Party) head,
1 Thanks to Professor John T. Sidel, Professor William Liddle, and an anonymous reviewer for comments
on earlier drafts of this paper. Remaining flaws are, of course, solely the responsibility of the authors.
Michael Buehler would also like to thank the following foundations in Switzerland that made his field
research in South Sulawesi province possible through their generous research grants: Husmann
Foundation, Sir Karl Popper Foundation, Thyll-Duerr Foundation, August Weidmann Foundation, and
Zangger-Weber Foundation. He is also grateful for the research assistance of Riza and Ina Parenrengi.
2 Amir Uskara, Head, PPP Gowa, personal communication with Michael Buehler, May 24, 2006.
Indonesia 84 (October 2007)
Michael Buehler and Paige Tan
Amir Uskara, made it clear that getting funds was a primary purpose behind the
party’s choice of candidate for regent.3 Further, he implied, it would continue to be so
in the future. This raises a troubling issue for those interested in Indonesia’s
democratization. If political parties are a primary building block of democracy, as
many political scientists have observed,4 and if the parties are not making their
decisions based on the best interests of their constituents (if they are not aspiratif, in
Indonesian political parlance), how well will democracy in Indonesia be able to
This paper presents a detailed picture of the party-candidate relationship in an
Indonesian regency during the regional elections (pemilihan kepala daerah, pilkada) of
2005–2006, drawing on in-depth interviews with candidates and party bosses, analyses
of official government documents, and nongovernmental organization reports, as well
as extensive research in local newspaper archives.5 The paper builds on existing
analyses of the regional elections by Nankyung Choi, Marcus Mietzner, and Jacqueline
Vel.6 Observing the weakness of the party-candidate bond, in which money and simple
legal requirements have seemed the building blocks of a none-too-healthy connection,
the paper applies insights from the party system institutionalization approach to
illuminate ways in which the nature of the currently typical party-candidate
relationship impedes the consolidation of Indonesia’s democracy in the regions.
3 Regional elections were held throughout Indonesia in 2005–2006 for regents (bupati) and vice-regents
(wakil bupati). These executives head up regency governments (kabupaten). This level of government—the
district—is directly below the province and is the focal point of Indonesia’s devolved governance, thus an
4 See, for example, J. Linz and A. Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern
Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).
S. Mainwaring, Rethinking Party Systems in the Third Wave of Democratization: The Case of Brazil (Stanford,
CA: Stanford University Press, 1999). S. Stokes, “Political Parties and Democracy,” in Annual Review of
Political Science, vol. 2, 1999 (Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews, 1999), pp. 245–246. G. Pridham and P. Lewis,
eds., Stabilising Fragile Democracies: Comparing New Party Systems in Southern and Eastern Europe (London:
5 There are three main local newspapers in South Sulawesi, namely, Pedoman Rakyat, Fajar, and Tribun
Timur. The reporting of these newspapers on local politics is generally biased. Pedoman Rakyat was taken
over in 2005 by Peter Gozal, an ethnic Chinese hotel owner and close ally of the powerful Yasin Limpo
clan. Syachrul Yasin Limpo, vice-governor of South Sulawesi, owns a piece of the paper and writes a
weekly column. The politicization of the newspaper by the Limpos has resulted in a rift between the
newspaper editors/staff and the new management. Apparently, the newspaper employees went on strike
in February 2007. There have been no new issues of Pedoman Rakyat published since March 2007. Fajar, a
newspaper owned by Jawa Pos Group and Alwi Hamu, is closely associated with the provincial elections
commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum, KPU). The head of the provincial KPU, Aidir Amin Daud, was a
long-time reporter for the paper and still writes editorials. Many regency election commission (Komisi
Pemilihan Umum Daerah, KPUD) members in the districts are former Fajar journalists, including the head
of KPUD in Gowa, Zainal Tahir. This is problematic for coverage because the elections commissions in
South Sulawesi are themselves tainted with allegations of corruption; therefore, those affiliated with the
commissions could not be expected to report in a forthright manner on themselves. In this paper, we try to
rely primarily on newspaper articles from the relatively more neutral Tribun Timur, owned by
Kompas/Aksa Mahmud. For an analysis of the coverage of 2005 Pilkada in Gowa regency, see Abubakar
AR, “Konstruksi Realitas Politik Dalam Media Massa-Suatu Tinjauan Analisis Framing Pemberitaan
Pilkada di Kabupaten Gowa, Sulawesi Selatan, Pada Harian Tribun Timur dan Harian Fajar,” Skripsi S-1,
Jurusan Ilmu Komunikasi, Fakultas Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik, Makassar: Universitas Hassanuddin.
6 Nankyung Choi, “Local Elections and Democracy in Indonesia: The Case of the Riau Archipelago,”
Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies Working Paper No. 91, November 2005. Marcus Mietzner,
“Local Democracy,” Inside Indonesia, January–March 2006, pp. 17–18. Jacqueline Vel, “Pilkada in East
Sumba: An Old Rivalry in a New Democratic Setting,” Indonesia 80 (October 2005): 81–107.
Party-Candidate Relationships in Indonesian Local Politics 43
Gowa was chosen as the subject of the case study because the area was once a
stronghold of the Golkar party, the party of the regime during Suharto’s authoritarian
rule.7 Golkar’s share of the vote in South Sulawesi, the province in which Gowa is
located, during the Suharto era averaged 87 percent.8 But, while still dominant in the
democratic elections held in the province since 1999, Golkar is not the omnipresence it
once was.9 We wanted to investigate and learn what the situation was like for Golkar
and other parties as they competed in the area’s first-ever direct elections for heads of
regional governments. What could the parties’ and candidates’ evolving relationships
tell us about Indonesia’s democracy?
This paper begins by outlining the party system institutionalization approach and
then highlights briefly our findings from applying the framework to Indonesian local
politics. The paper provides in-depth information on the nature of the party-candidate
relationship in the regional elections in Gowa, tracking the relationship from
nomination, to campaign, to election day and after. Lastly, the paper discusses what
the nature of the party-candidate relationship suggests about Indonesia’s
Party System Institutionalization
This study builds on the work of Scott Mainwaring and Timothy Scully in their
volume on Building Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America and of
Mainwaring’s individual work in his book, Rethinking Party Systems in the Third Wave of
Democratization: The Case of Brazil. In these volumes, the authors contend that it is
important to study the institutionalization of the party system as a means of
understanding politics in recent democracies.10 In order to discern the level of
institutionalization in a given system, Mainwaring and Scully recommend examining
four features of the party system: the degree of stability in inter-party competition; the
extent of party roots in society; the legitimacy that parties and elections are perceived
to have in determining who governs; and, lastly, the solidity of the parties as
7 Golkar did not technically have the status of a party under New Order legislation, which recognized two
parties and one Golkar, a unique entity. However, Golkar did fulfill a party’s functions of fielding
candidates in the controlled elections. Since its post-New Order reorganization and re-registration for the
1999 elections, Golkar has had the legal status of a political party in Indonesia—one of many. The term
New Order (Orde Baru) is used to distinguish the new regime from the Old Order (Orde Lama) of former
8 Biro Humas KPU, Pemilu Indonesia Dalam Angka dan Fakta (Jakarta: KPU, 2000).
9 Golkar’s share of the vote declined from 66.7 percent to 44 percent in parliamentary elections in South
Sulawesi from 1999 to 2004. In 1999, Golkar’s nearest rival, Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP, the
United Development Party), scored 8.4 percent. In 2004, its nearest rival, the Partai Keadilan Sejahtera
(PKS, the Justice and Welfare Party), scored 7.3 percent. So, despite the decline, Golkar was still well ahead
of the competition. Source: Election Commission Data.
10 Mainwaring and Scully use the term “third-wave democracies” from Samuel Huntington’s seminal
article. We choose to revise that term, however, to encompass new democracies as a whole. By the late
1990s, before Indonesia’s transition, some were questioning whether the Third Wave was over. For
Mainwaring and Scully, see S. Mainwaring and T. Scully, Building Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in
Latin America (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995).
Michael Buehler and Paige Tan
According to Mainwaring and Scully, institutionalized party systems (systems with
regularized inter-party competition and parties characterized by strong roots in
society, legitimacy, and highly developed organizations) are typically found in the
advanced industrial democracies, though they have sprouted in some newer
democracies, too. Institutionalized systems provide a stability and structure to politics
that make the system operate with greater predictability. In institutionalized systems,
parties are able to fulfill one of their most important democratic functions: allowing
voters to hold the government accountable.
In contrast, in relatively uninstitutionalized systems, parties do not provide an
underlying structure to the operation of politics the way that institutionalized party
systems do. Parties come and go from one election to the next. Parties’ social roots are
weak, leading to instability as voters float from one party to another. Parties in
relatively uninstitutionalized systems are often weak as organizations, and many
display personalistic characteristics (where the individual leader matters more than the
party itself) and a lack of internal discipline and professionalism.
Weakly institutionalized parties make governance difficult in a number of ways.
When parties tend to rise and fall so rapidly, it becomes difficult to hold politicians
accountable because of a lack of connection between a party and specific policies
enacted. Without social roots, parties are often ill attuned to constituents’ interests,
and, as a result, they develop policies and govern in a way divorced from the popular
will. Weak party organizations, especially those lacking discipline, make developing
and passing a legislative program a severe challenge. In weakly institutionalized
systems, legitimacy is also often called into question, raising the possibility that
opponents to the government might shake or even overturn the system. It would be
naïve to expect a strongly institutionalized party system and stable voting patterns in a
government that has broken free of a powerful dictatorship as recently as Indonesia’s
has. However, this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. The degree of
institutionalization apparent can still tell us a lot.
One of the authors has done work on institutionalization of the party system at the
national level in Indonesia.11 She has broken down Indonesia’s party politics according
to Mainwaring and Scully’s criteria to determine the degree of institutionalization
apparent. From the national perspective, the 2004 national elections, both
parliamentary and presidential, as well as the first rounds of the regional elections,
represented a step toward deinstitutionalization of the party system due, most
significantly, to the primacy of candidates’ personalities in the direct elections of the
president and the regional heads. The one positive outcome the author has found
related to the issue of accountability. The author discovered that voters had some
ability to punish those parties that appeared to be acting against their interests
(particularly the Partai Demokrasi Indonesia–Perjuangan [PDI-P, Indonesian
Democratic Party of Struggle] of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri) and reward
parties that seemed to promise solutions and clean governance (such as the Islamist
Partai Keadilan Sejahtera [PKS, Justice and Welfare Party] and Partai Demokrat [PD,
11 See, Paige Johnson Tan, “Indonesia Seven Years after Suharto: Party System Institutionalization in a
New Democracy,” Contemporary Southeast Asia 28,1 (April 2006): 484–508. See also, Paige Johnson Tan,
“The Anti-Party Reaction in Indonesia: Causes and Implications,” Contemporary Southeast Asia 24,3
(December 2002): 88–114.
Party-Candidate Relationships in Indonesian Local Politics 45
Democratic Party] of now-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono). Still, Mainwaring
and Scully’s finding that accountability is difficult to effect in uninstitutionalized
systems is still borne out. Even if chastened, Megawati’s PDI-P scored better than PKS
and PD put together (though PD captured the presidency).
Narrowing the focus from the national to the local level, this paper seeks to use
data on the party-candidate relationship gathered from the 2005 regent elections in
Gowa, South Sulawesi, as a window to understanding the degree of
institutionalization of the party system at the regency level. The party-candidate
relationship was shown by Mainwaring in his study of Brazil to be a key element in the
institutionalization equation; it cuts across all four of the criteria to determine party-
system institutionalization. Candidates in Brazil are very independent of their parties,
a condition that weakens the latter. For example, when elections are determined by
individual candidates’ popularity, the respective parties’ influence and strength can
fluctuate wildly from one round to the next, resulting in an unstable system of inter-
party competition. Also, if politics are based on individuals and their charisma, parties
do not need to establish strong roots in the population. In addition, in cases where the
candidates are significantly more important than their own parties, political parties as
organizations fail to acquire the legitimacy they would have gained from the voters’
support. Lastly, if candidates can and do raise their own funds and carry out their own
campaigns, there is little need to develop the party as an organization. Is the political
situation in Indonesia similar to that in Brazil, or are Indonesia’s political parties more
What we find in Gowa is that parties are changing dramatically in response to the
stimulus of local elections. Golkar, once the dominant party of the area, has splintered,
so that it is no longer able to encapsulate the ambitions of its many notables. Three of
the four regent candidates in the 2005 pilkada were Golkar or former Golkar members.
The party itself has been captured by the powerful Yasin Limpo clan. Further, it was
the Yasin Limpo clan’s substantial wealth and powerful network, rather than the party,
that secured the victory of Ichsan Yasin Limpo in the regent’s race. The parties in
Gowa were guaranteed a role in the regional elections due to legal requirements, but in
reality they became merely subcontractors of campaign work, charging their wealthy
candidates for their nominations and campaign services. Candidate-party pairings
were made on the basis of personal relationships, as well as financial and legal
considerations, and represent an ad hoc approach antithetical to institutionalization. In
conclusion, we think about what this relative lack of institutionalization suggests for
politics in Gowa and for Indonesia’s democratization. We begin by introducing the law
on regional elections that set the stage for pilkada Gowa.
Parties and Candidates in the 2005 Regent Elections in Gowa
The legal framework for the pilkada was Law 32/2004, which, along with
subsequent presidential instructions and input from the Constitutional Court, required
that candidates for the regional head races be nominated by a party or coalition of
parties that had earned 15 percent of the vote in the most recent election for parliament
at that level of government, or that controlled 15 percent of the seats in the local
Michael Buehler and Paige Tan
legislature.12 This stipulation guaranteed the parties a role in the local contests, though
it remained for the parties and candidates in the regions to determine what that role
would be. Candidates were to be selected locally, though important parties like Golkar
reserved the rights of their provincial and national authorities to intervene in candidate
selection.13 Golkar even pledged to hold nominating conventions, as the party had
done with the selection of its presidential candidate in 2004.14
Below we compare the nomination procedures by which parties in Gowa chose
their candidates for regent and vice-regent (or, perhaps more accurately, how
candidates chose their parties), and the ways these campaigns were run; we also
describe post-election-day relations of the four pairs of candidates with their respective
parties. An analysis of these processes sheds a bright light on the nature of the party-
Candidate-Party Relations in the Nomination Process Prior to the 2005 Pilkada
The Nomination of Ichsan Yasin Limpo and Abdullah Razak Badjidu
Ichsan Yasin Limpo and Abdullah Razak Badjidu were supported by three parties:
Golkar, Partai Persatuan Demokrasi Kebangsaan (PPDK, United Democratic
Nationhood Party), and PD (Partai Demokrat, Democratic Party).15 Oddly, this team
only decided to seek the nomination of Golkar after already being nominated by PPDK
and PD. This was strange because Golkar had long been the strongest party in Gowa,
and Ichsan himself was a sitting Golkar legislator in the provincial parliament.16
Further, if Ichsan had decided to jump ship from Golkar, a nomination by PPDK and
PD would have been sufficient to reach the mandatory 15 percent electoral threshold to
12 Law 32/2004, Article 59. PP 6, 2005. Jakarta Post, March 24, 2005. On July 23, 2007, the Constitutional
Court overruled this article in the autonomy law, allowing candidates to run in local elections without a
13 “Penentuan Calon Bupati Golkar Lewat Voting: Calon Tetap Golkar Jadi Ketua Kampanye,” Tribun
Timur, February 5, 2005, p. 1. Interestingly, the role of the national and provincial authorities in the
nomination process was strengthened through a change of party internal rules after the 2005 pilkada. See
Michael Buehler, “Local elite reconfiguration in Post-New Order Indonesia: The 2005 elections of district
government heads in South Sulawesi,” Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs 41,1 (August 2007): 21.
The pilkada were perceived as disastrous for the Golkar party throughout Indonesia. According to a Golkar
internal document from April 2006, the party lost 63 percent of all pilkada in Indonesia in 2005 and 50
percent of those carried out in the first four months of 2006. See Dewan Pimpinan Pusat (Central
Leadership Board) Golkar, Laporan Perkembangan Pilkada Per Senin 3 April 2006 (Jakarta: DPP Golkar,
2006). In many areas, unpopular incumbents who had power with their local branches pressed for their
renomination, only to carry the party to defeat. Against this backdrop, the central party board in Jakarta is
trying to regain control over the local nomination process of the party’s candidates for upcoming races. In
this vein, the central party board cut back the voting power of the district branches in the nomination
process for pilkada candidates from 65 percent to 20 percent, as a comparison of the party’s internal voting
regulations before and after 2005 pilkada shows. See Golkar DPP, Petunjuk Pelaksanaan DPP Partai Golkar
Nomor: Juklak-1/DPP/Golkar/II/2005 tentang Tata Cara Pemilihan Kepala Daerah Dari Partai Golongan
Karya (Jakarta: Sekretariat Jenderal DPP Partai Golkar, 2005), p. 28, para. 1c; and Golkar DPP, Petunjuk
Pelaksanaan DPP Partai Golkar Nomor: Juklak-5/DPP/Golkar/IX/2005 tentang Perubahan Juklak-
01/DPP/Golkar/II/2005 Tentang Tata Cara Pemilihan Kepala Daerah Dari Partai Golongan Karya
(Jakarta: Sekretariat Jenderal DPP Partai Golkar, 2005), p. 32, para. 5d.
14 “Hanya Urus Golkar,” Tribun Timur, February 11, 2005, p. 9.
15 KPU Gowa, Surat Pencalonan 002/Koalisi/PG-PPDK-PD/IV/2005.
16 KL2SS/WWL, Track Record Calon Pemimpin Kabupaten Gowa Periode 2005-2010 (Makassar: KL2SS/WWL,
2005), p. 3.
Party-Candidate Relationships in Indonesian Local Politics 47
allow nomination of candidates for the election. 17 How did the three-party coalition
behind this pair of candidates come together?
Ichsan Yasin Limpo’s nomination by the two small parties largely originated from
old personal bonds between Ichsan and the district bosses of PPDK and PD, Rahman
Syah (PPDK) and M. Yusuf Bangsawan (PD).18 According to one of Ichsan’s campaign
managers, the candidate had no other option but to accept the offer for nomination by
these two parties given his close personal links to the two party leaders.19 The
nomination was later supported by eleven of PPDK’s twelve subdistrict branches;20
however, the proposed nomination caused open dissent among subdistrict leaders of
PD. Their spokesman, Mustari, stated that the decision of their party boss did not
reflect the aspiration of the people of Gowa regency. Mustari especially criticized the
evaluation process that had determined the selection of the candidates and the fact that
nomination decisions were made behind closed doors by the party bosses.21 The
subdistrict branches of PD eventually acquiesced to the decision of the party bosses,
but in fact they had few other options besides abandoning the party or refusing to
cooperate with the campaign, as they had no voting role in the nomination process. If
Ichsan won the election after the subdistrict representatives refused to support him,
this would have separated PD from the perks of power, as we will see below.22 Neither
PPDK nor PD held a convention, though Ichsan maintains that his nomination by these
parties came from “the bottom up.”23 After locking up PPDK and PD, Ichsan then
sought the support of Golkar.
At one time, it seemed likely that Golkar would nominate its party head in Gowa,
Tenri Olle Yasin Limpo, Ichsan’s sister, a woman who had proven her ability to
cultivate votes in the district and had repeatedly expressed her interest in running for
17 “Pekan Depan PPDK dan PD Tanda Tangani MoU: Usung Ichsan YL sebagai Calon Bupati Gowa,”
Tribun Timur, February 24, 2005, p. 22.
18 To illustrate the interlocking relationships among families and power brokers in Gowa, it should be
noted that when Ichsan Yasin Limpo was nominated by PPDK in early February 2005, Rahman Syah, the
head of PPDK, was also the head of KNPI (Komite Nasional Pemuda Indonesia, Indonesian National
Youth Council) in Gowa district (see “Hari Ini Muskab KNPI Gowa Dibuka,” Tribun Timur, February 12,
2005, p. 22). He was thus under the authority of the province head of KNPI, Haris Yasin Limpo, Ichsan’s
younger brother. See “Suara Beringin: Bulletin Partai Golkar Makassar,” no. 6 (August 2006), p. 12.
Furthermore, the national party boss of PPDK, Ryaas Rasyid, was born in Gowa regency. This former
director of Indonesia’s regional autonomy program is a close friend of Syachrul Yasin Limpo, the vice-
governor of South Sulawesi province, who is also the older brother of Ichsan Yasin Limpo.
19 Anonymous, personal communication with Michael Buehler, May 3, 2006. PD Gowa had initially
suggested five names to the PD at the provincial level, namely, Ichsan Yasin Limpo, Hasbullah Djabar,
Mapparessa Tutu, Dewie Yasin Limpo, and Syahrir Daeng Jarung. The provincial party branch of PD then
evaluated these potential candidates and returned the revised list, containing only Ichsan Yasin Limpo’s
and Syahrir Daeng Jarung’s names, to the district branch of the party. The district branch then chose
Ichsan Yasin Limpo from the two names left. See “PPDK dan Demokrat Pastikan Usung Ichsan: Bersaing
Dalam Pilkada Gowa,” Tribun Timur, February 3, 2005, p. 22.
20 Ismail, Vice Head PPDK Gowa, personal communication with Michael Buehler, May 24, 2006.
21 “Anak Cabang Partai Demokrat Tolak Ichsan: Anggap Putusan Dewan Pakar Sepihak Soal Pilkada,”
Tribun Timur, February 4, 2005, p. 22. This type of criticism has been a common one in South Sulawesi and
in Indonesia more broadly during the regional head races.
22 It was a common practice throughout South Sulawesi and Indonesia as a whole for candidates to be
arbitrarily chosen without consultation between the central party authorities and representatives at the
23 Ichsan Yasin Limpo, Gowa regent, personal communication with Michael Buehler, March 8, 2007.
Michael Buehler and Paige Tan
bupati.24 In one report that illustrates how Tenri Olle Yasin Limpo had constructed her
political base, the local Tribun Timur tells of her touring Gowa with other Golkar
officials a few months before the regional elections in a fuel truck to distribute five
thousand liters of gasoline at well below the market price to several districts, including
the potential power bases of opponents. In order to gain access to the fuel, people had
to have a voucher from the village chief, a requirement that tied them into the Golkar
power structure that still predominated. Despite her role in preparing the political
ground, however, Tenri Olle Yasin Limpo was not to be Golkar’s candidate.
According to Ichsan Yasin Limpo,25 the family carried out grassroots surveys to
determine popular attitudes toward the three Limpo children with aspirations to run
for bupati: Ichsan, Tenri, and Dewie. At a meeting of the clan presided over by Syachrul
Yasin Limpo, former mayor of Gowa, then the current vice-governor of South Sulawesi
province and head of the family since his father’s incapacitation, Ichsan and Tenri
presented their plans for the district along with descriptions of their own individual
and financial resources in order to establish their qualifications for conducting a
campaign. Dewie, though invited, was not present at the meeting and was thus
presumed by the family not to be “serious” about running.26 Citing the polls that had
shown him to be more popular than Tenri, Ichsan would later state that those surveys
helped convince the “family” to choose him as its preferred candidate for the 2005
pilkada.27 Tenri was not happy with the decision, which she claimed came from
Syachrul, but she accepted it, even later serving as one of the chief coordinators of
Ichsan’s campaign.28 Having been given the nod by the Yasin Limpo family, Ichsan
would be easily chosen as Golkar’s candidate. The Golkar convention was a pro forma
exercise.29 Lacking the family’s approval, neither Dewie nor Tenri would be nominated
by other parties to stand in the elections.30
An examination of the broader political picture in Gowa and South Sulawesi helps
clarify why Golkar, PPDK, and PD would accede to the Yasin Limpo family’s decision
and support Ichsan as their candidate. The powerful influence of the Yasin Limpo clan
24 In the parliamentary elections of 2004, Tenri Olle Yasin Limpo won a total of 11,178 votes in district
Gowa IV, while her competitors in that district were only able to earn a few hundred votes each (KPU
Gowa, 2004-Model EB 1 DPRD KAB/KOTA Gowa IV). In other words, in a voting district with a total of
37,416 voters, Tenri Olle Yasin Limpo alone received 30 percent of the votes.
25 Ichsan Yasin Limpo, Gowa regent, personal communication with Michael Buehler, March 8, 2007.
26 Irman Yasin Limpo, brother of Ichsan, personal communication with Michael Buehler, March 8, 2007.
According to Ichsan, members of the family are concerned that too many Limpos now occupy too many
political positions. It is feared that popular opinion may turn against the family if the Limpos are
perceived as trying to “monopolize” political power.
27 Ichsan Yasin Limpo, Gowa regent, personal communication with Michael Buehler, March 8, 2007.
28 Tenri Olle Yasin Limpo, Head, Golkar Gowa, personal communication with Michael Buehler, May 5,
29 A former head of Golkar in Gowa, Malingkai Ma’nung, also wanted to be the party’s bupati candidate,
but since he received no support from the influential Yasin Limpo family through the party organization,
he was eliminated convincingly at the convention. The Golkar convention is attended only by Golkar
members, and the inner workings of the convention were not reported publicly. We have only scraps of
information by which to gauge what transpired. When one of the authors tried to get information on the
convention from Ichsan Yasin Limpo, he was told only that Ichsan’s nomination was decided upon in the
“same way” as nominations at “all levels.” Ichsan Yasin Limpo, Gowa regent, personal communication
with Michael Buehler, March 8, 2007.
30 Whether nominations were sought after the family meeting is not known.
Party-Candidate Relationships in Indonesian Local Politics 49
dates back to Suharto’s New Order period (1965–1998), a time when the family
accumulated great wealth. Burhan Magenda has noted the continuing importance of
aristocrats in South Sulawesi politics.31 The patriarch of the Yasin Limpo clan is Yasin
Daeng Limpo, an aristocrat from Cikoang–Bontonompo32 and thus a major social
notable (tokoh masyarakat). Magenda provides information on Limpo’s background:
[Yasin] Daeng Limpo was born into the family of Karaeng Polombangkeng,
Takalar. He was educated at the Inlandsche School in Makassar and was active in
guerrilla units ... during the revolution. In the late 1950s, he was Assistant to
Pangdam Hasanuddin for Territorial Affairs and in the early 1960s he was a
member of the provincial [Daily Governing Council], until 1966. In 1967, with the
rank of Lieutenant Colonel, he was Head of the Veterans Office in Makassar.33
From the 1960s, Yasin Daeng Limpo was influential in the Central Organization for
Indonesian Independent Workers (Sentral Organisasi Karyawan Swadiri Indonesia,
SOKSI), a military-dominated group designed to counter rising communist strength.34
SOKSI was one of the organizations that came together to found Golkar in 1964, and it
was Golkar that the new military regime, taking over in 1965, would turn to as the
electoral and bureaucratic vehicle for its rule. Because of Yasin Daeng Limpo’s role in
SOKSI, and thus in Golkar, he was well positioned to prosper both politically and
economically under the New Order. He served in various high-level political positions
from the 1960s to the 1990s: as South Sulawesi Golkar head and as regent in Gowa and
two other neighboring regencies, as well as speaker and vice-speaker of the provincial
legislature,35 and even as acting governor for a time.36 In addition, Yasin Daeng Limpo
served a stint in the potentially lucrative position as head of various province-level
Magenda tells us that “young officers of aristocratic origin could not have found a
better time than in the early 1960s” for moving into civilian jobs.38 We would argue that
the fact that Yasin Daeng Limpo was a second-level military official—as opposed to a
top-tier one—contributed to his political and economic power in the area. This sounds
counter-intuitive unless one takes into account the fact that top-level military officers
were removed from their home provinces following the rise of Suharto and relocated
throughout the nation.39 Since he held a position just under this top level, Yasin Daeng
31 Burhan Magenda, “The Surviving Aristocracy in Indonesia: Politics in Three Provinces of the Outer
Islands” (PhD dissertation, Cornell University, 1989). For a discussion of South Sulawesi province, see pp.
32 Ichsan Yasin Limpo, Gowa regent, personal communication with Michael Buehler, March 8, 2007.
33 Magenda, “The Surviving Aristocracy,” p. 796, ftn. 113.
34 “Pengumuman No. 3/GKPV/64,” Pedoman Rakyat, March 23, 1964, p. 1.
35 “Agar DPRD TKT I Sulsel Benar2 Menyuarakan Kebenaran,” Pedoman Rakyat, August 18, 1982, p. 1.
36 Ichsan Yasin Limpo, Gowa regent, personal communication with Michael Buehler, March 8, 2007.
37 Perusahan Daerah Propinsi Sulawesi Selatan, “Utjapan Selamat,” Pedoman Rakyat, May 3, 1971, p. 3.
38 Magenda, “The Surviving Aristocracy,” p. 665.
39 John T. Sidel, “Macet Total: Logics of Circulation and Accumulation in the Demise of Indonesia’s New
Order,” Indonesia 66 (October 1998): 159–194.
Michael Buehler and Paige Tan
Limpo was able to build a base of political and economic power in South Sulawesi and
remain to oversee and cultivate it.40
One can get some idea of Yasin Daeng Limpo’s network by observing his role in
the Boy Scouts, an organization he headed in South Sulawesi for almost forty years.41
The Boy Scouts were not just boyish good fun in New Order Indonesia. Boy Scout
gatherings allowed Yasin Limpo to lead tens of thousands of young men and to
network with other notables both within and outside the province.42 Boy Scouts played
important social roles, too, providing services that were not provided by government
agencies,43 thus allowing Yasin Limpo to be seen as a provider of largesse to the wider
public. Boy Scouts also played important roles in the New Order’s controlled elections,
supporting Golkar and the ruling regime and encouraging others to do likewise.
Building on Yasin Daeng Limpo’s economic and political groundwork, his wife
and children have kept the tradition of political activism and influence alive. Several
are active in organizations strongly linked to New-Order-era Golkar, such as Kosgoro
(Kesatuan Organisasi Serbaguna Gotong Royong, the Union of Multifunctional Mutual
Assistance Organizations) and the FKPPI (Forum Komunikasi Putra-Putri
Purnawirawan TNI/Polri, Communication Forum for Sons and Daughters of Retired
Police and Military). Many in the family have also taken leadership roles in the Boy
Scouts. Yasin Daeng Limpo’s wife and several children have served in the national,
provincial, and regency-level legislatures. As mentioned above, Tenri, Ichsan, and
Dewie all occupy important political roles or aspire to do so.44 Ichsan has followed
many of the same paths as his parents and siblings. He was previously active in the
Boy Scouts, Kosgoro, FKPPI, and Golkar. He served in the provincial parliament for
South Sulawesi from 1999 to 2005. It was from this launching pad that he began his
campaign for regent. He made an unsuccessful bid to be selected bupati of Takalar in
2003, when the election was still in the hands of the local legislature, before his
successful bid to become regent of Gowa in the pilkada of 2005.45
Information on the Yasin Limpo clan’s wealth is difficult to obtain, but informants
in South Sulawesi generally refer to the family as one of the wealthiest and most
prominent in the province, particularly in Gowa. They control numerous businesses,
including nightclubs. Before Ichsan Yasin Limpo became bupati in Gowa, he was a
businessman, taking care of various family enterprises in South Sulawesi province.46
40 Dias Pradadimara, Head, Center for the Study of Eastern Indonesia, Hasanuddin University, Makassar,
personal communication with Michael Buehler, March 6, 2007.
41 “Remaja Pembangunan Perlu Disiapkan Sekarang,”Pedoman Rakyat, January 1, 1977, p. 2.
42 “Kontingen Sulsel ke Sibolangit Berjumlah 800 Pramuka,” Pedoman Rakyat, June 7, 1977, p. 1.
“Musyawarah Cabang Ke-VI Gerakan Pramuka Kabupaten Gowa,” Pedoman Rakyat, October 22, 1982, p. 5.
43 “Gudep Pramuka Luar Sekolah Diresmikan di Panaikang,” Pedoman Rakyat, February 17, 1982, p. 12.
44 Dewie Yasin Limpo is expected to run for bupati of Takalar, a neighboring regency, in the upcoming
pilkada. She has collected support from Partai Persatuan Pembangunan and Partai Merdeka. An even
broader coalition of parties may be constructed by nomination day. See, “Dewie Yasin Limpo Temui PPP
Sulsel,” Tribun Timur, March 1, 2007 (online). http://www.tribun-timur.com/view.php?id=41791&
45 Ichsan Yasin Limpo, Gowa regent, personal communication with Michael Buehler, March 8, 2007.
46 Some of these businesses include PT. Resultan Perkasa (Komisaris), Multi Kontrindo (Direktur), PT Fita
Ayu (Direktur), PT Multi Engkatama (Direktur), PT. Latimojong Citra Makmur Sejahtera (Komisaris
Utama). KL2SS/WWL 2005, p. 3.