Despite its many differences, Indonesia remains a democratic nation. The country has experienced a long period of economic growth. GDP growth rates have averaged 5-7 percent annually. However, the level of communal violence is moderate to low by international standards. In addition, Indonesia’s civil society remains heavily controlled by the state. Nevertheless, the pro-democracy movement has grown significantly in the recent years.
Indonesia has many cleavages, including those between the majority Muslim community and the minority Christian community. These ethnic differences, as well as religious cleavages within the Muslim community, pose serious problems for the future of democracy in Indonesia. The country is also plagued by gender cleavages. Women are generally subordinate to men, and children are socialized into patriarchal relationships. The undemocratic gender relations of the society strengthen the authoritarian regime.
The emergence of a new student movement in Indonesia has also been a driving force in the democratic struggle in the country. This movement demands political democratization, and calls for deep socio-economic transformation. It has also resulted in the establishment of politically open organizations outside the campus.
While most Indonesian political parties distinguish themselves by their Islamic orientation, there is a wide array of different political actors. These actors concentrate on different issues, use different tactics, and work towards different goals. They can be divided into three groups, based on their understanding of democracy: moderate opposition, radical pro-democracy actors, and hard-liners.
The moderate opposition takes a non-confrontational position towards the regime, and is largely made up of liberals and social democrats in NGOs. They also work at a grassroots level, socializing people. They participate in the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development. However, this is not enough to ensure political change. The soft-liners, on the other hand, are repressive and want to maintain authoritarian rule. They believe that political liberties and rule of law can be imposed only after a smooth transition from the authoritarian regime. These groups include the Forum for the Purification of People’s Sovereignty, the Petition of 50, and the Democratic Forum.
Radical pro-democracy actors are the most serious opponents of the authoritarian regime. They work to change a wide range of authoritarian structures. These actors also stretch the limits of the authoritarian regime and try to create new structures. The emergence of this group has largely been inspired by democratization events in other parts of the world. These events have had a profound impact on Indonesian pro-democracy activists.
During the pre-transition period, the struggle for democracy in Indonesia is primarily focused on the need to socialize the population. This socialization is crucial for the consolidation of the democratic regime. The socialization process is contested by all sections of the democratic opposition, and has been a source of conflict. A popular upsurge could bring about the collapse of the authoritarian regime. However, the emergence of new democratic structures is still in its early stages.
The emergence of a new political movement in Indonesia has been fueled by the global democratization trend. This has led to a new generation of young leaders. However, this generation of leaders has a different understanding of democracy than previous generations.