Democracy in Indonesia is now entering its third decade. In the early 1990s, a new period of political reforms opened the way for political dissidents to voice their demands for democratization. These political reforms weakened the authoritarian regime.
The democratic struggle in Indonesia is seen as a series of attempts to change the existing authoritarian structures and create new, democratic structures. However, there are long-term and short-term tactical soft-liners who oppose opening up political and social spaces and try to reverse the trend. Among the actors who can play a role in this struggle are politicians, intellectuals and NGOs. There are also radical pro-democracy groups, such as the Democratic Forum, which reject cooperation with the authoritarian regime and want to change a variety of structural elements.
Another group that has played a crucial role in this struggle is the student movement. Students have demanded political and socio-economic change. Their demands have led to the emergence of openly political organizations that seek support from peasants and workers. Since the mid-1980s, a student movement has become more aggressive toward the authoritarian regime.
The Islamic community is another important factor in the struggle for democracy in Indonesia. Various religious leaders have recognized the potential for problems, but are determined to promote understanding among different religions. They are aware that extremist and sectarian elements may exploit social unrest. Some sections of the Muslim community have expressed strong interest in Islamic democracy.
A variety of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have played a key role in the defense of human rights and the promotion of democratic values. This includes the Legal Aid Institute and the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development. Many of these organizations work at the grassroots level and attempt to socialize people. As a result, many NGOs have been able to work with a variety of opposition groups.
There are a variety of ethnic cleavages in Indonesia, including those between the Muslim majority and the Christian minorities. This creates a number of challenges in the future for democracy in Indonesia. During the transition period, the government has tried to suppress a large number of radical Islamic groups.
Several NGOs have been involved in the fight for democracy in Indonesia. Those in the moderate opposition are social democrats who work in NGOs. Other groups that take a non-confrontational stance toward the ruling regime include liberal NGOs and some NGOs that focus on environmental and health issues.
While the pro-democracy movement has expanded significantly in the last decade, there are a number of challenges facing it. One of the biggest challenges is the level of violence. According to Amnesty International, the Indonesian government has enacted laws that restrict personal freedom, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of expression. Moreover, a growing wealth gap has left about 10 percent of the population vulnerable to poverty.
There are also several religious cleavages, including between the Muslim community and the Christian minorities. Although most religious leaders are aware of these cleavages, they are determined to make the Indonesian Muslim community and the Indonesian Christian community more inclusive.