By Iola Abas
from Pantau Gambut
Behind the 2024 general election contest, there lies the power of political parties that will shape the formulation of government policies in the future.

While the president and his deputy will change, the same cannot be said for their supporting political parties. Regrettably, this critical aspect is frequently overshadowed during each electoral cycle. The captivating allure of presidential candidates tends to divert public attention away from the pivotal influence exerted by political parties backstage. It is crucial for voters to assess how political parties have behaved in parliament to ensure that policies remain aligned with public interests, environmental protection, and democratic principles.

With only five days left until the election, the anticipated "people's democracy festival" has failed to ignite meaningful discourse on the positions of supporting parties. Instead, the digital media landscape is abuzz with discussions confined to the campaign promises of candidate pairs, seasoned with heated disputes among their respective supporters. The public spotlight is often directed only towards the presidential and vice-presidential candidates. However, supporting parties wield significant control as the determinants of the direction of post-election strategic policies.

Although policy initiatives may originate from the executive branch, the legislative body and its affiliated political parties play a pivotal role in shaping government policies.The multi-party presidential system in Indonesia empowers parties as parliamentary members, potentially giving them greater influence than the president.

Take for instance, the formulation of the Omnibus Law on Job Creation, which seemingly materialized out of thin air in the halls of the Indonesian Parliament. The enactment of this law garnered support from seven out of nine parties in the legislature, with only the Keadilan Sejahtera Faction and the Demokrat Faction opposing it. The rest were evenly dispersed among the third-party supporters of the presidential candidate pairs.

The collective vote count of these two parties does not carry sufficient weight to sway policies approved by the majority vote, constituting only a fifth of the dissenting voices. Consequently, it comes as little surprise that the visions, missions, and agendas of the three presidential candidate pairs are markedly influenced by this legislation.

While presindent and vice-president candidate number 01 (Anies-Muhaimin) is not explicitly linked to the Omnibus Law on Job Creation, their proposed programs suggest a correlation with several of its provisions. They have outlined initiatives aimed at streamlining business permits and promoting the industrialization of plantation commodities. However, such streamlined access potentially exacerbates the recurring activities of companies involved in forest and land fires. Consequently, the underlying issues contributing to forest and land fires outbreaks remain unresolved.

In contrast, candidate pair number 02 (Prabowo-Gibran) has put forth programs concerning the development of downstream sectors in the extractive industry and various projects. Despite facing significant opposition, these projects have proven unsuccessful, having expended Rp1.5 trillion from the State Budget.

Candidate pair number 03 (Ganjar-Mahfud) is no different. This pair has two main programs directly related to the Omnibus Law on Job Creation, namely "Industrialization 5.0" and pushing for an average economic growth of up to 7 percent. To facilitate this program, Article 39 of the Omnibus Law on Job Creation was added to Article 128 of the Mineral and Coal Law. Entrepreneurs implementing coal downstreaming programs are exempted from royalty payments.

All three candidate pairs also share a similar view on the Omnibus Law on Job Creation: land conversion to exploit natural resources to the fullest extent. However, Forest and Other Land Use (FOLU) is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions affecting global climate change.

Instead of earnestly striving for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the ruling party in parliament is supporting the Omnibus Law on Job Creation. The addition of Articles 110A and 110B in the Omnibus Law on Job Creation allows for the whitening of palm oil plantation companies operating in prohibited areas. This includes areas within peat hydrological units.

The implementation of this whitewashing policy has impacted on three critical dimensions of peatland governance in Indonesia: environmental, social, and economic. From an environmental standpoint, the conversion and exploitation of forested areas equivalent to 25 times the size of Java Island by unlicensed palm oil plantation companies have resulted in dire consequences. The looming risks have escalated to a point of both acute and chronic concern. Alarmingly, these entities can secure legality through a mere payment of administrative fines, perpetuating a cycle of environmental degradation.

Horizontal social conflicts are also prone to arise due to the lack of transparent and responsible consultation processes conducted by palm oil plantation companies with local communities. Take, for example, the shooting case in Seruyan Regency, Central Kalimantan, in October 2023. In terms of the economy, the potential financial losses to the state amount to hundreds of trillions of rupiah per year due to the palm oil industry's non-compliance with regulations and global commitments.

We must prevent the escalation of conflicts fueled by the cosmetics applied by political parties in their support of presidential and vice-presidential candidates. The public must carefully scrutinize the multitude of flaws and considerations at stake before stepping into the polling booth and casting their votes.

**This article was previously published in Tempo on February 9, 2024**

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