Muslim Popular Organisations and Governance Reform
April 27, 2011
This piece was originally published in East Asia Forum Quarterly.
Governance is Indonesia’s greatest challenge. In 1998, after 32 years of authoritarianism, Indonesians demanded a democratic system and got one. In the ensuing 13 years Indonesians have demonstrated a remarkable commitment to democratic values. They have twice directly elected a president and vice president, and directly elected over 500 regional executives and more than 17,000 regional representatives. The question now is how well these elected officials are governing. If poverty levels and the state of service delivery are any indication, there is room for improvement. More than 100 million Indonesians live on less than $2 a day. Twenty-five percent of children under five are malnourished, only 48 per cent of the rural poor have access to clean water, and only 55 percent of poor children complete junior secondary school. One explanation for this poor performance is low capacity. Indeed, 70 percent of parliamentarians elected in 2009 had never before served in parliament. Celebrities, former officials’ wives, and shop-owners were all in the mix. However, low capacity is not the primary cause of poor governance, and therefore pure technical assistance is not the most effective solution.
One explanation for this poor performance is low capacity. Indeed, 70 per cent of parliamentarians elected in 2009 had never before served in parliament. Celebrities, former officials’ wives, and shop-owners were all in the mix. However, low capacity is not the primary cause of poor governance, and therefore pure technical assistance is not the most effective solution. As any policymaker knows, law and policymaking are political processes influenced by many competing interests. Recently, political scientists and development theorists have argued that to deliver truly effective governance it is not enough to reform institutions, or to provide officials with technical assistance, but that political elites must be engaged and mobilised. This call for ‘politics’ to be brought back into development looks at the problem of vested interests and argues that unless reformers have powerful political leverage, government policy and spending will often undermine the interests of the majority, especially the poor.
Scholarly work on Indonesia’s two large mass-based organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah (with a shared membership of 70 million people) has often not addressed the groups’ engagement in governance reform. During the reformasi period, these groups used their influence to encourage democratic reform. More recently they have worked towards encouraging governance reform.
Robin Bush is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Indonesia. She can be reached at [email protected].
About our blog, In AsiaIn Asia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia's development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, In Asia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.
In Asia is posted and distributed every Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected].
ContactFor questions about In Asia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to [email protected].
The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223
THE LATEST ACROSS ASIA
The Philippines, China, the U.S., and ASEAN in 2017
October 19, 2016
Asia Foundation Development Fellows 2016 U.S. Component
October 13, 2016
Habitat III: Charting a New Urban Agenda
October 12, 2016
Mongolia’s Small-Scale Miners Play Critical Role in Safeguarding Natural Resources
October 12, 2016
Asia Foundation to Release Foreign Policy Recommendations for Next U.S. President
October 6, 2016
Asia Foundation Appoints Jane Sloane to Head Programs to Empower Women and Promote Gender Equality
October 6, 2016