The transition from authoritarian to democratic governance in Indonesia began in 1998. Since then, the country has seen its influence rise with free and fair elections. The 2004 election of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has also ushered in the first peaceful transfer of power in the country’s history. Yet, this transition is not without its pitfalls. A number of factors exacerbate the challenge of achieving a genuine democracy in Indonesia.
In the beginning, political parties were mostly Islamic, although the Communist Party is now a major political party. Eventually, the country achieved a multiparty system that is a’majority’ in the eyes of the people. In addition, Indonesians also have a number of secular and syncretic religions, which have their own political parties. While Indonesia has a very diverse society, it has always been dominated by religious leaders.
In the past, Indonesian politics became polarized and increasingly divided, due in part to the personality and strategies of the political elites. However, with the recent rise of Islamism and its increasing polarization, the country is susceptible to populism. As a result, many polarizing political messages found traction with the electorate. The next step for Indonesia is to move toward a truly democratic system.
The process for a vibrant democracy in Indonesia requires a radical shift in the economic development. The unequal distribution of natural resources, land, and resources has weakened the power of the government. To achieve this, a complete separation of the corrupt business practices of past regimes is necessary. Furthermore, it is necessary to remove the links between wealthy businesspeople and local candidates. The authors argue that such a separation is essential for an effective democracy.
Despite its recent economic growth, Indonesian governments remain sceptical about the capacity of their citizens to make responsible decisions. In order to avoid such a scenario, the country needs to strengthen its institutions and promote a healthy environment for its citizens. Further, there are signs that the military has been playing a major role in this process. Moreover, the military is playing a key role in Indonesia’s democratic governance.
In June 1999, Indonesia held its first general election in nearly 40 years. The country elected its fourth president, Abdurrahman Wahid, and Megawati Sukarnoputri was elected as his vice president. The main political party, PDI-P, won the most votes in the election. Golkar, a former dominant party, won the majority of seats in the DPR in the poll.
The current Indonesian government’s approach to democratic practice is too narrow. A country’s democratic consolidation requires more than just elections. The government must develop a robust political system and reform bureaucratic structures. Moreover, the public must be engaged in the process of democratization. In other words, the government’s attempts to consolidate a democracy should be supported by the domestic public. And a well-functioning democratic system is not a symptom of democracy in Indonesia.