Indonesian Democracy

democracy in indonesia

The fourth-most populous country in the world, Indonesia is a mid-performing democracy with a service-based economy that is heavily dependent on domestic consumption. It has long been a regional power, with significant influence in international politics. Its democratic institutions function well, although corruption and insecurity still persist. The government is committed to furthering reform, including implementing the UN’s human rights treaty and improving governance in its poorest regions.

The country has completed four national elections since the fall of Suharto, each through a parliamentary process and then a direct popular vote. With the exception of Abdurrahman Wahid, who was removed from office by parliament rather than being voted out at the ballot box, all have followed established democratic norms and peacefully handed over power between presidential terms.

Elections are competitive, with multiple parties and a wide range of policy preferences being represented. The legal framework for elections is generally democratic, and electoral authorities are generally seen as impartial. Nonetheless, the powerful military continues to play a significant role in politics, with former commanders playing prominent roles in government and influencing campaigns and party candidate selections. Moreover, intimidation by nonstate actors remains a challenge for various groups seeking to participate in the political system.

Do different segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, and sexuality) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?

While Indonesia has a long tradition of diverse civil societies, discrimination against some groups still exists. In general, these groups have access to the political system and to representation in state and local governments, but they remain under-represented at the national level.

A significant number of people are satisfied with the way their democracy works. In 2018, about two-thirds of the country’s citizens rated democracy as “good” or “satisfactory.”

In a society rooted in Islam, the government takes steps to ensure that religious freedom is protected and that public life is free from excessive state interference. However, the government continues to restrict freedom of expression and assembly in some regions and is inconsistent in its implementation of the constitution and international human rights treaties.

In the future, it is important that the country continue to strengthen its separation of powers and bolster the independence of the judiciary. Indonesia also must continue to improve its economic development, particularly in the rural areas where many people live. Poverty rates have been cut in half in the last 20 years, but nearly a third of its population is vulnerable to falling below the poverty line and the wealth gap is growing. This could lead to instability and demobilize democratic forces.

USAID supports grassroots movements that advance tolerance and pluralism in the country, and works with young Indonesians to discover ways to manage differences constructively. We are also committed to supporting the Indonesian government’s commitment to further democratic reforms and reduce inequality. In particular, we will support the implementation of the UN’s human rights treaty and other efforts to improve government transparency and accountability.