Located in Southeast Asia and Oceania, Indonesia is a nation of more than seventeen thousand islands. Including Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi, Indonesia also includes parts of New Guinea and Borneo. The government is largely centralized, although some regions have more autonomy. In recent years, the country has embraced more democratic principles, including the right to hold referendums and other forms of direct democracy.
The omnibus bill aimed at recentralizing key investments paves the way for direct elections. The National Police, which was tasked with monitoring controversies, actively dissuaded the opposition to the bill, and subsequent protests were met with repression. In addition to these problems, the disbandment of the Islamic Defenders Front highlights ongoing concerns about free speech and intimidation against those with non-conforming views.
As the newest democracy in the world, Indonesia’s constitution does not guarantee a free and fair election process, as the country’s judicial system still has many imperfections. First, the Indonesian people have limited access to the courts. Hence, the government has no independent judiciary. Second, Indonesia’s constitution is a patchwork of laws, and constitutional principles. In some countries, judicial decisions can only be appealed by the president.
In Indonesia, the current party system is flawed. It is dominated by powerful parties that spend astronomical amounts of money renting the support of political parties and buying votes of citizens. In a multiparty system, the best candidates are favored by all the parties, and the country’s democracy suffers. Nevertheless, the country has a long way to go to achieve its objective. There are a number of challenges that remain, but a return to direct elections is the best way to ensure a stable, inclusive and accountable government.
In the past, Indonesia’s lawmakers have questioned the capacity of voters to make responsible choices. As a result, they’ve proposed an index to measure regional “capacity” in choosing their own leaders. The index is likely to be based on socioeconomic indicators and discriminates against poor voters. Ultimately, this is a recipe for disaster in Indonesian democracy. A two-pronged approach to reforming the system may be the answer to diverting the country from regression into progress.
While Indonesian lawmakers remain skeptical of the capacity of voters to make responsible choices, they’re confident that the public will not vote against the government’s choices. In fact, they’re confident that voters’ confidence in the process will be enhanced, and they’ll end up being more responsive to the needs of their communities. If democracy in Indonesia is to be successful, it will need to work on its institutions. There are many challenges to be overcome in order to make this system more efficient and effective.
The emergence of democracy in Indonesia was marked by two major events. In October 1999, the anti-Suharto movement led by Amien Rais was a successful coup against the regime of Suharto. Amien Rais and Abdurrahman Wahid founded political parties and worked together to ensure that a peaceful transition to democracy in Indonesia would occur. In July, the two men were impeached for their power abuse.