Despite its rocky history, Indonesia’s democracy has made some significant strides. Several years of repression triggered the emergence of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focused on human rights, the environment, and democracy. This influx of new talent has aided the early stages of Indonesia’s democratic development. The development of an active media has created a stable ground for further growth. While the country’s democracy has experienced some impressive successes, it continues to face many of the same challenges it faced under the Suharto regime.
A recent proposal to return to indirect elections is based on a misdiagnosis of the country’s political problems. In reality, the country’s political system is riddled with cynicism and resentment. In addition, candidates spend astronomical sums of money to buy votes from citizens and rent support from political parties. This is not only counterproductive for the nation, but also for the country’s democracy.
While decentralisation allows for local interpretations of democracy, it can pose challenges for electoral transparency. In 2013, the Asian Network for Free Elections observed the gubernatorial elections in West Papua. Traditional noken bags increase the risk of vote-buying and manipulation of ballots, says Sarah Repucci, a democracy watchdog. And, she notes, the system may be a “cynical compromise” in the end.
Moreover, the book also highlights the increasing influence of the wealthy capitalists and political party leaders. The lack of financial accountability and the high legislative threshold make it impossible for new parties to emerge, preventing new parties from forming. In fact, established political parties tend to consolidate themselves into dominating power groups and prevent other groups from gaining influence. However, this ‘guided democracy’ model has a few drawbacks.
While Indonesia’s parliamentary elections have been relatively peaceful and free, there has been one exception that demonstrates the country’s strong commitment to civilian rule. The DPR was dissolved in February and a new president was elected. But despite the lack of a coherent ideology, the emergence of a democratization in Indonesia is not a’miracle’. In fact, this is the result of an unprecedented period of post-authoritarian violence.
The transition from the former authoritarian regime to a more democratic one has posed many challenges for Indonesia’s government. For instance, the military has increasingly dominated the national legislature since 1998, allowing regional politicians to rubberstamped Jakarta’s decisions and repress opposition. This trend has undermined the country’s democracy, and is a direct contradiction of Horowitz’s emphasis on inclusive constitutional-making.
Despite these challenges, Indonesians are generally in favor of direct elections. Almost ninety-five percent of voters back the reforms, while 67 percent voted for the current system. It’s a positive sign that the people of Indonesia have a strong will and are willing to pay for it. The problem with this system is that it doesn’t promote democracy and the military is increasingly in power.