Indonesian Constitutional Transition and Its Impact on democracy

democracy in Indonesia is one of the oldest self-governing societies in the world. With an estimated population of about 101 million, Indonesia is one of the most culturally diverse countries in Southeast Asia and Oceania. It includes the magnificent island of Java and the multitude of islands, like the Sumatra and Borneo, which are its constituent islands. Indonesia is also a prominent global political and economic partner in South-east Asia, and has successfully integrated with the western world. This has made it a valuable member of the Commonwealth of Nations (ACN), as well as a leading member of the Asian Financial Cooperation Organization (AFCOA).

The people of Indonesia have elected a freely-electable President and a Parliament with wide representation for the people. However, some areas of the country are still experiencing a prolonged and struggle free environment. Political activities are often blocked or hindered in some areas, and the media can be restricted. As a result, the quality of life is not fully developed and human rights are not protected. Although the long-term goals of the democratic transition in Indonesia remain unattainable, there have been notable developments towards this end.

The main improvements to come from the democratic transition in Indonesia are the release of political prisoners and the release of all political prisoners who are in prison. Also notable is the improvement of freedom of expression that was achieved by the election of local assemblies and by popular assemblies at the grass root level. As regards the media, two major limitations have been addressed. First, media owned by the major players in the country will be restricted, and second, the media is now required to operate within the confines of the Indonesian constitution. Still, the media landscape remains highly diverse and operates in a very diverse way in Indonesia, both in respect of direction and content.

As regards trade and foreign investment, trade barriers that were created during the authoritarian era will be erased, and restrictions on ownership of multi-national companies will be lifted. As regards the foreign political actors in Indonesia, those who are not included in the constitution will find their entry here very difficult, but free elections are expected to occur within a year. Overall, the new constitution and current situation in Indonesia show a country that is moving further towards democracy.

A cursory glance at the recent history of Indonesia would suggest that it has not always been this way, with coups and dictatorial rule being more common in its past than currently. The current transition in Indonesia shows much promise in terms of democracy, and the chances of a rapid deterioration of human rights are minuscule. However, the fact that the current constitution-making process has only covered thirty percent of the required changes to the constitution does raise questions about the sustainability of the process, and therefore of democracy in indonesia as a whole.

The time is ripe for Indonesia’s transition to democracy to progress. International concern over the situation on the ground in Indonesia has only increased. It is up to the Indonesian people themselves to ensure that their elected leaders live up to their obligations to the inclusive welfare of the masses, and to ensure that the rule of law is maintained. There is no doubt that the people of Indonesia deserve better than what they are getting right now. The time is ripe for change, and the people of indonesia who wish for democracy should not wait for this change to occur naturally. Indonesia must come to terms with its present, and must start electing leaders who will bring about the changes that are so urgently needed.