The first steps in establishing a democratic government in Indonesia began in 1945, when the Constitution of 1945 made the president head of the state and government. In practice, this created a guideline for implementing Guided democracy. However, the Provisional Constitution of 1950 made the president’s role much smaller, and the ‘generation of 66’ became increasingly influential. The new order sought to maintain political order, economic development, and a lack of mass participation in the political process.
When Indonesia was beginning its democratic journey, it was an arduous process. In fact, the process was often referred to as a “game of inches,” as various constituencies and parties bartered for support of amendments. Now, with the interests of the key players aligned, the process is far less complicated. However, this doesn’t mean that Indonesian democracy is over. In order to ensure a successful transition, Indonesians must ensure that the country continues to promote democracy and human rights.
Indonesia has made impressive gains towards democracy in recent years, establishing significant pluralism in both politics and the media. It has also undergone multiple peaceful power transfers. Despite its progress, the country still faces major challenges, including systemic corruption, discrimination against minorities, separatist tensions in Papua province, and politicized use of defamation laws. In addition, it has recently arrested 51 people under the COVID-19 pandemic and implemented policies to suppress dissent.
Despite the recent struggles, Indonesia’s democratic experiment has been a success. Currently, it has a large collection of nongovernmental organizations devoted to the promotion of human rights, democracy, and the environment. Despite this, Indonesia has had only one military president in the post-Suharto era. And despite this, Indonesia’s political system is characterized by strong indications of a future of change.
In Indonesia, pro-democracy actors tend to focus on specific authoritarian structures in order to achieve a limited form of democracy. While this movement has increased substantially in recent years, it remains weak in comparison with the authoritarian regime. However, it is possible that a limited form of democracy can eventually emerge in the country. As it continues to gain momentum, it is likely to lead to a more rounded and comprehensive picture of Indonesia’s democratic development.
While the political polarization in Indonesia may have been altered by the recent elite-level reconciliation, the outcome has not been a clear indication of a genuine transformation in Indonesia’s politics. This polarization has not healed the ideological tensions. The decision of Prabowo to join the government has not made the ideological divide between the two sides disappear, and the Islamist organizations outside the party system view Anies as the new leader of the opposition and an Islamist candidate for the 2024 presidential election.