Press "Enter" to skip to content

Musyawarah-Mufakat: Indonesian Diplomacy through the Jusuf Kalla Experience

Musyawarah-mufakat (negotiation for consensus) has been ingrained within the identity of the Indonesian political culture ever since the founding fathers secured its place within the Pancasila; the five ideological pillars of the State. This essay would attempt to explore the origin of the concept and how it has become a forefront of Indonesian diplomacy through the spectacle of an agile negotiator and prominent political icon, i.e. Jusuf Kalla or we know as JK.

Musyawarah (negotiation) is essentially an indigenous decision-making method which involves taking into consideration of the decisions that are about to be made and is often conducted to reach a consensus (mufakat).

Indonesian scholars have been debating its compatibility with democracy. However, it would not be uncommon to find that contemporary Indonesian decision-making involves musyawarah fused with the majority-vote system to reach an agreed consensus (mufakat). states that the embodiment of democracy is based on the spirit of individualism and considers that each is responsible for whatever he or she chooses.

There is a specific pattern within the conflicts that JK personally took part as peace negotiators. Both conflicts in Poso and Ambon demonstrated and tested the nation’s limit of tolerance and sense of diversity whereby sectarian groups declared war against each other by religion and cultural grounds. However, underlying factors, such as social jealousy fueled by economic uncertainties around 1998 – 1999, were often the ones to pull the trigger to such conflicts. At the same time, the country faced the separatist movements pressurizing the decentralization of power from Jakarta to the rest of the country, i.e. GAM’s past presence in Aceh

The man who led successful negotiations in Poso and Ambon became an iconic political character. To his admirers, he was known to be straightforward, which was an appealing quality to the younger generations due to JK’s preference for immediate action This was a label that he continued to use during the 2009 Presidential Election—Lebih cepat, lebih baik (The quicker it is, the better).

Aspinall further highlighted JK’s commitment to open dialogs and credited his ability to spot golden opportunities to his businessman back-ground.

An example would be when the 2004 Tsunami devastated lowland Aceh which was GAM’s center source of funding and resulted in driving the group deep into the Aceh highlands. This was further supported by Mietzner where he/she demonstrated that JK approached GAM’s leaders personally and reopened negotiation by offering the possibilities of extending the region’s autonomy while Aceh was in the center of the international media attention.

Firstly, it is essential to understand that there is an element of cooperativeness involved in attempting to reopen negotiations. Howell and Willis  suggest that human beings are not defined by their innate sense of aggression but rather by their innate sense of cooperativeness. Therefore, peaceful society is one where cooperativeness is achieved by the various parties involved to ensure their survival for the future.

A sense of openness comes with the feeling of cooperation, which then opened up the possibilities of dialogs and exchange of information. This then led Hanafi to further emphasize that an effective musyawarah-mufakat could only be achieved when there is ‘transfer of knowledge’ from the leaders who hold certain credibility and is knowledgeable of the subject being discussed. This is because every view should maintain a particular competence to educate those who may not understand the issue as well.

It is suggested that musyawarah-mufakat may be an effective conflict resolution method due to its structural understanding of the Indonesian society, particularly by taking into account its elements of the patron-client relationship. The concept is not strange in Southeast Asian political culture, as suggested by Scott, it erodes the formal structure of command.

Jones highlights the culture of bapakism (paternalism) that is held in a particularly high regard. In respect to musyawarah-mufakat, this would come to play in the form of mentorship that cultivates a mutual dependency on both the patron & the client.

JK has successfully considered the vital essence of peace negotiations which is considering the economic alienation that has been experienced by the parties involved in the conflicts, which has been demonstrated through the peace treaties such as the Malino Declaration and the Helsinki Agreements.

However, JK’s negotiation efforts could be interpreted as more than ‘surrender and amnesty’, but rather they were bargaining efforts and compromises on all the parties that were involved.

It is an acknowledgement that the world of peacebuilding is a complex one that requires effective communication to generate a deeper understanding of the needs of those who conflict.

That is in line with Howell and Willis’ suggestion as bargaining comes with cooperation, which demonstrates the complexity of peace-building efforts because they are concerned with more than just societies overcoming a sense of animosity towards one another. It eventually narrows down to the ability of societies working together to achieve a common goal.

JK successfully utilized mutual trust to commit to effective musyawarah-mufakat efforts. Trevarthen and Logotheti (1989) emphasized that common goals are revealed through cooperativeness, which could then be a way to interpret the origin of conflicts as a state where there are breakdowns of mutual trust with each other.

Trust in this case was achieved by contacting the leaders of the conflicting parties personally and invited them to negotiations. Leaders represent consensus and common values that their groups hold in a musyawarah-mufakat; cooperativeness then reveals the ‘bridge’ that may integrate those shared values to achieve the same goals.

Looking towards the future, Indonesia would attempt to act as a unitary actor in international diplomacy just as JK had done in the past with the country’s internal conflicts. Capie suggests that this interest would come with the desire for more representations on an international stage.

Representation, in this context, could come in putting forward musyawarah-mufakat as a primary diplomacy strategy by taking into consideration elements such as mutual trust, mentorship, and cooperativeness.

Musyawarah-mufakat revisits gotong-royong and opens up dialogs to emit empathy and build a bridge of cooperativeness, which would be something that Indonesia could continue to instil within its youths through the education system.



Nibras Balqis Sakkir

19 years old, 2nd year student at the University of Kent, a full-time Social Anthropology student and part-time fencer.



This essay has been edited and modified for digital publication and reading easiness reasons.

These terms have been agreed upon by the writer (s).

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *