Indonesia’s successful transition to democracy over the past 20 years has established it as a model for the region. Despite challenges, progress continues to be made. Nonetheless, the country’s democratic consolidation requires increased government responsiveness, transparency and accountability in local communities and districts across the country.
Indonesians are optimistic about their country’s future. In a Pew Research Center survey in 2018, a majority said they were satisfied with their country’s political and economic institutions and believed that the country was on the right track to become a more democratic society.
Most Indonesians say they are likely to take political action on certain issues, but many also say that they have not participated in organized protests or posted their views on social media. In addition, large shares of Indonesians say they have not voted in a political election and have never attended a campaign event or speech.
The legal framework for elections is largely democratic, but some restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly may inhibit citizens’ participation in politics. The country’s laws on press freedom restrict the dissemination of information deemed to violate moral norms, including gambling and defamation. In some regions, such as Papua and West Papua, Internet blackouts during protests inhibit journalists’ reporting. Journalists who report on sensitive topics, such as corruption and sexuality, face harassment and violence.
Religious minorities are under pressure from the country’s powerful Muslim clerics, who often have a negative view of them. One of the most influential is Ma’ruf bin Sultan, who has been involved in the campaign against Jokowi. He is president of Nadhlatul Ulama and chair of the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), a state-backed, independent body that issues religious rulings on everything from Islamic finance to blasphemy.
Indonesia’s national police force is corrupt and has a poor human rights record. Its officers have been accused of killing civilians and of using detention facilities to torture prisoners. The Indonesian government is working to improve its police forces’ performance and has supported a number of local human rights organizations in their efforts to address the issue.
There are multiple, competing political parties in Indonesia. Several parties contest the presidential and parliamentary elections, but the most notable are Golkar and Gerindra.
In the past two decades, a number of nongovernmental organizations have emerged in Indonesia that promote reform and respect for human rights. These NGOs have been instrumental in advancing democratization and human rights in the country.
The country’s political system is based on the bicameral parliament, which elects a president and a cabinet. In addition, the legislature creates a legislative commission that oversees the running of parliamentary and presidential elections. The commission is dominated by members of the military and business elites.
A parliamentary majority is needed to pass key legislation and to set priorities for the government. Although the government is generally seen as responsive and open to public opinion, many civil society groups have criticized the parliament for failing to make progress on a range of important issues, such as improving public services and controlling endemic corruption.