Indonesia’s political landscape has changed dramatically after President Yudhoyono’s decade in power, but the country is still far from a democracy. The country’s long-standing Islamic-pluralist divide has deepened in recent years, and the coronavirus pandemic has further exacerbated this divide. The next decade will be critical to Indonesia’s future. It will be essential to understand the country’s political history before making policy recommendations.
The recent polarizing and exclusive political campaigns have caused considerable concern among many Indonesians. The Jokowi government’s crackdown on opposition figures has been unprecedented in the country’s democratic history since 1998, entrenching the divide between Islamist and opposition forces and weakening the fragile democratic institutions. Although these developments are worrying, it is not the end of democracy in Indonesia. This book will provide critical analysis of the country’s current state of affairs.
The New Order was a reaction to the coup attempt in 1965. The New Order sought to separate Indonesia from the problems that have plagued the country since its independence, and to establish a strong and unified government. It was a time of intellectual and social change, but the New Order sought to maintain economic development and political order while removing mass participation from the political process. A number of reforms were made, but the emergence of the New Order was only the beginning.
The Indonesian Constitution was amended in 1999. Four amendments were made to the Constitution, including term limits for the president and measures to implement checks and balances. The highest state institution, the People’s Consultative Assembly, is responsible for electing the president and establishing broad guidelines for state policy. It has representation in all of the national institutions except the cabinet. There is a judicial branch in Indonesia and a senate, but this is not a powerful role.
Assembly regulations in Indonesia have varied and were often changed over time. In September 2020, Jakarta assembly regulations limited gatherings to five people. These restrictions were lifted in December 2020, but many still had some form of mass assembly ban in place. However, the regulations imposed on these gatherings were enforced only against pro-government elites and political activists, not ordinary citizens. The constitution also guarantees freedom of religion. Unfortunately, the Indonesian government has weakened its constitutional guarantee of religious freedom and has seen an increase in blasphemy cases.
Jokowi is a member of the PDI-P and a former minister in Wahid’s government. He ran for president on a coalition of pluralist parties. However, Prabowo exploited this by teaming up with conservative Islamist parties and hardline Muslim groups. The Indonesian election was widely watched by international media. The election was well-organized, with 77.1% voter turnout – exceeding the KPU’s target of 70 percent.
Despite the gains in the Indonesian democracy, Indonesia still faces many challenges. Its Suharto-era regime benefited a powerful elite and the military. Over half of the population lives in poverty, and the World Bank has reported an ever-widening wealth gap. Inequality of health and educational services, radical sectarian elements and a growing wealth gap create social pressures. This is especially true in the urban areas.