A vibrant democracy in Indonesia is a must for achieving socioeconomic and environmental sustainability. The unequal distribution of natural resources, land, and income has created a climate for corruption. However, recent elections show signs of progress. While the country is in recession, the political system is not broken, but it is in need of reform. The authors of Democracy in the Middle East argue that an economic shift is needed to bolster the democratic system.
The first democratic transition in Indonesia occurred after the fall of Suharto in 1998. This was the first step in the transformation from a military dictatorship to a more democratic and open political system. This period was known as the Reformasi phase. During this time, a cabinet composed of members from all major political parties and the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) was formed to provide a more inclusive and representative government.
In the meantime, the MPR – the legislative branch of the Indonesian government – plays a crucial role in establishing democracy in Indonesia. It interprets the constitution and sets the broad lines of state policy. While the MPR was once a unicameral body, it became a bicameral body following the 2004 elections. It consists of a lower house DPR and an upper house DPD. Four-fifths of the seats are allocated to the lower house. DPR members are elected through a proportional system based on provinces. Voters can vote for an individual candidate or for one of the political parties.
Despite the emergence of the PKI in Indonesia, it has remained a marginal party. Its popularity has declined in recent years. It has never had any real political power and has never achieved national recognition. Nevertheless, the political situation in Indonesia remains dangerous. The current government has to take steps to halt illiberal trends and restore democracy in the country. If the government continues to ignore the concerns of citizens, democracy in Indonesia may remain a mere chimera.
In addition to this, Indonesia is also suffering from a backsliding democracy in recent years. The trend in the civil-military balance shows that the military is increasingly dominant and is moving away from the civilian authority. The military has some occupying positions in the country, but they are not considered to be subordinate to the civilian authority. In fact, they are more important than the rest of the nation.
In the past few decades, the country’s democratization process has been marked by the political opposition’s failure to redress these issues. Many Indonesians have questioned the legitimacy of such a regime. The government’s record shows that it is unwilling to respect the will of the people. Even if the opposition continues to be strong, it is unlikely that Indonesia will become a free and democratic nation.