After the 1965 coup attempt, the New Order gained popular support as a way to separate Indonesia from the problems that had plagued it since independence. This new group of intellectuals and young leaders sought to restore political order, increase economic development, and eliminate mass participation in the political process. This approach was largely unsuccessful. Indonesia has since had to undergo several rounds of elections to elect a new president. Regardless of the results, the Indonesian people are proud of their democratic progress.
The military has a de facto dual function in the country. COVID-19 has intensified this dual function, and military forces are now used to enforce health protocol. It will be difficult to undo this trend, but advancing democracy will require strengthening the institutions that govern Indonesia. There are many signs of hope, however. For example, there have been a number of high-ranking military officers in civilian positions, and the country’s police force has consolidated its role as minister of defence and security.
While the country has made significant progress, there is still much more work to be done. Indonesia’s democracy is largely unpopular, but it has made significant strides since the Suharto era. It has cut its poverty rate by half since 1998 and raised its per capita gross domestic product. Indonesia has made great strides toward achieving democracy, but many challenges remain. The government must take steps to ensure its development, but this should not be the only goal.
In addition to these challenges, Indonesia has a corrupt judiciary. The National Human Rights Commission lacks formal investigative powers and must follow judicial recommendations. Reports by the commission have not led to effective prosecutions. In addition, Indonesian media is far more robust than it was under Suharto. Many of the journalists and publishers in the country are victims of extrajudicial threats by the military and economic elites. The government is not doing enough to protect minorities in Indonesia.
A stifling political climate has weakened the democratic process in Indonesia. Nonetheless, many Indonesians have expressed concerns about the polarizing and exclusive political campaigns. The Jokowi government’s crackdown on the opposition, a move unprecedented in the country’s democratic history since 1998, has entrenched the divide between Islamist and opposition forces and further eroded the fragile democratic institutions in the country.
The president of Indonesia is the most significant factor in determining the civil-military relationship. Jokowi, an outsider with a humble background, was elected president in 2014. While his campaign centered on his non-military background, he shares the illiberal tendencies of strongman populists. Aspinall’s analysis of Jokowi argues, the government is focusing on his illiberal tendencies.