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Political public relations in Indonesia under the Yudhoyono presidency: Past developments and new formations

Soehoed, Sri Rendro Dhani (2018) Political public relations in Indonesia under the Yudhoyono presidency: Past developments and new formations. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis is about political public relations in Indonesia. It draws on the tremendous changes after the fall of the Soeharto regime in May 1998. The transformation of the political system from authoritarianism to democratic government quickly led to the freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the country. Consequently, new governments in the post-Soeharto era sought to develop new strategies and models of communication in the new political atmosphere.

This thesis is concerned with analysing the rapid growth and the exercise of political public relations under Indonesia’s sixth president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004–2014). It focuses on how Yudhoyono harnessed political public relations during his presidency to maximise political and popular support. A multiple approach to public relations, i.e. system, rhetorical, and critical were used in this thesis to examine the concept, development, practices, and effects of political public relations. A single case study is employed in this thesis to analyse how Yudhoyono improved the quality of political public relations and thus could safely ‘democratise’ propaganda in Indonesia.

The thesis argues that the term ‘political public relations’ in the context of Yudhoyono’s presidency can be considered as ‘soft propaganda’ because the president and government apparatus basically used old and new methods of propaganda in their political communication through sophisticated and subtle ways. Yudhoyono harnessed political public relations with communication strategies and techniques that were largely propagandistic. He relied on military officers and trusted them more than professional public relations consultants in helping to manage his communication tactics and plans. Compared to his immediate predecessors, Yudhoyono applied more professional communication strategies and was particularly adept at managing his presidential persona to his advantage, and that was one of the pivotal factors leading to perpetuate his political hegemony. This thesis also found that the process of decision making become sluggish as his presidency progressed as Yudhoyono began to rely excessively on political public relations to quell public rejection of policies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Lee, Terence and Fitch, Kate
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