Indonesian Politics and the Future of Democracy

March 13, 2013

Indonesian politics in 2012: coalitions, accountability and the future of democracy Indonesian politics in 2012: coalitions, accountability and the future of democracyBelow is an excerpt from a paper written by The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Indonesia, Sandra Hamid, that was featured in the Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies (BIES), a journal published by the Taylor & Francis Group and housed in the Indonesia Project in the Arndt-Corden Department of Economics at The Australian National University. To read the full article, visit Taylor & Francis Online.

Indonesia is a successful but flawed democracy: while the electoral process has worked well, the quality of democratic governance is less encouraging. Missing from the equation between elections and democracy is political accountability. Parties’ obsession with coalition building as a route to political power has made it difficult for voters to attribute success or failure to elected officials. Coalition government allows politicians to send contradictory messages, and in 2012 religious minorities – which are neither banned nor protected – have paid a heavy price for the lack of accountability and leadership. In Jakarta an outsider, Joko Widodo, won the gubernatorial election despite facing an incumbent backed by a broad coalition. His victory illustrates that coalition building does not guarantee success, and that the electorate is mature enough not to be swayed by appeals to religious and ethnic sentiment. This gives heart to those hoping to strengthen democracy and democratic values in Indonesia.

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