A crisis of democracy during four years of Jokowi’s rule

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Abdurrahman Syebubakar
Chairman of the Managing Board of the Institute for Democracy Education (IDe)

IO – Since the early days of his power, President Jokowi revealed himself to be unfriendly towards democracy. Soon after his inauguration, President Jokowi took various steps and policies that were inconsistent with the many political promises that he gave out during his campaigns. Within weeks, President Jokowi reneged on his promise not to increase petroleum fuel prices. In November 2014, petroleum fuel prices increased, while the compensation provided to the wong cilik – the little people – who were the main voters that elected President Jokowi – is insufficient for the pain caused to them by increased fuel prices. Their lives have worsened because of rising prices.

Five months later in March 2015, we realize that there is an increase in the population of 860,000 poor citizens with worsening poverty levels. During his four-year rule, President Jokowi has relentlessly slid upwards the price of petroleum fuel. The promise to create a lean cabinet filled in by professionals was also unfulfilled: Jokowi-Jusuf Kalla’s cabinet remains fat and filled with politicos. Cabinet members are frequently replaced in order to satisfy the desire of gaining the support of political parties.

In terms of corruption eradication, in 2015 President Jokowi permitted the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi– “KPK”) to be attacked through the scenario of criminalization against its chairman and vice chairman. The case of an acid splashing attack on the KPK senior investigator, Novel Baswedan, in April 2017, was not taken seriously by President Jokowi. The brains behind the attack and the perpetrators have not been found – even now. This is not just an outrage to our sense of justice, but it’s also a serious threat to the future of democracy. Massive and systematic corruption eats up all dimensions of democracy.

There is still a long list of President Jokowi’s political promises that he failed to satisfy, just as long as the list of corruptors KPK arrested. Most of these corruptors come from the very political parties that supported President Jokowi as well as his inner circle. Political promises are democratic bonds between a candidate leader and his voters, because he will be regulating their fates when he comes to power. When political promises are left unsatisfied for no reason, the elected leader is actually betraying the people’s trust and vote.

President Jokowi has forgotten, or perhaps he doesn’t know, that the people are the epicenter of democracy and that the people’s vote is the soul of democracy. This is in line with what Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the USA, wrote: “Democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Or more extremely, we have the adage that “Vox populi, vox Dei”, “the people’s voice is God’s voice”.

Other than breach of promise, President Jokowi has revealed symptoms of authoritarianism. He frequently criminalized critical parties who opposed the government. In order to silence these opposing groups, he uses various strategies, starting from engineering charges of hate speech to exploiting pornography laws. Various negative labels like “slanderers”, “hoaxers”, “anti-diversity”, and “anti- Pancasila” are imposed on parties who have different views from that of the people in power. With the use of the Anti-pornography Law, Habib Rizieq Shihab (HRS), a central Islamic figure who is anti-Ahok and anti-President Jokowi, became victimized. HRS was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia in order to avoid being criminalized on charges trumped-up by the people in power. Dozens of “212” were slandered and arrested on charges of conspiracy, without solid evidence. Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFENet) data, as quoted by Kompas daily (8/9/2017), said that 10 activists were jailed due to violation of the Electronic Information and Transaction (Informasi and Transaksi Elektronik – “ITE”) Law. Until September 2017, a further 6 people were arrested, not including those being investigated.

Ustadz Abdul Somad (UAS), a phenomenal young clergy from Riau, could not escape persecution and prohibition from being unfriendly with the people in power. Recently, there has been a movement by people who are not ready to accept differences to petition YouTube to delete UAS’ sermons on the famous net channel. This petition violates both the basic principle of democracy, as well as the provisions of Constitution of 1945 that guarantee freedom of speech.

In late 2017 and early 2018, there have been cases of attacks and abuses against Islamic figures and clergy in various locations in East Java and West Java. Instead of investigating these terror cases with a systematic pattern and uniform targets, they blame insane people for these attacks. This allows them to get a quick resolution and have the case disappear into thin air from the public’s mind.

The #2019GantiPresiden (“#2019ChangePresident”) movement, which is guaranteed by the Constitution and is within the confines of election rules and regulations, has been suppressed for being “provocative” and “potentially disturbing to public harmony”. On the other hand, the #Jokowi2Periode (“#Jokowi2Terms”) movement is allowed, and even facilitated. Several #2019GantiPresidentactivists, such as Mardani Ali Sera, Neno Warisman, and Ahmad Dani, are terrorized and persecuted in several locations by incumbent supporters who pretend to speak for local residents.

Colleges are also not free from the pressure for stopping the opposition from visiting campuses and holding discussions, even though the theme for discussion is absolutely unrelated to the upcoming presidential elections. In October, the Millennial Era Leadership and Nationality Seminar at Gadjah Mada University was cancelled because the invited speaker was from the opposition. The opposing Candidate Pair were prohibited from visiting campuses, schools, pesantrens (Islamic boarding schools), and other educational institutions and speaking there, but the incumbent pair are allowed. That is absolutely unfair and vulgar.

The burning of flags inscribed with the tauhid (statement of obligation to Allah and acknowledgment of Muhammad as the prophet) during the National Santri (Islamic Religious Scholar) Day on 22 October 2018 in Garut, West Java, by Banser, the paramilitary element of the Ansor, which is the Nadhlatul Ulama’s youth section, is the latest in the long list of dangerous elements that threaten democracy in our country. No matter what the reason, the burning is unjustifiable, because it is not only anti-democracy, but also threatens the unity of Indonesian Muslims in particular and Indonesians in general.

Accordingly, interpretations of Pancasila, nationalism, and NKRI are monopolized by the people in power à la a fascist regime. All oppression was justified under the name of “Pancasila” and “NKRI harga mati” (“NKRI is unnegotiable”), Government Regulation In Lieu of Law (Peraturan Pemerintah Pengganti Undang-Undang – “Perppu”) Number 2 of 2017 was issued to dissolve community organizations that are unfriendly with the people in power. Having a different path from the ideology of supporting groups is used as an excuse to dissolve community organizations. Without undergoing a trial in a court of law, Hisbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) became the first victim of this Perppu because of its militantly Islamic political belief, and because of its critical stance against the government. The HTI flag was burnt by Banser, which we suspect are covertly supporting the incumbent.

This phenomenon is caused by the jealousy of the ultra-nationalist group against a political Islamic group. This is marked with the return of New Order-style discourse of “Pancasila” and “integrated nation”, a distinct step back in Indonesia’s national politics which was previously democratic. One thing for sure, the dissolution of non-violent community organizations, whose rights and existence are guaranteed by the Constitution, is a democratic flaw and damage. “Democracy” principally means “ideas vs. ideas”, “propaganda vs. propaganda” instead of blunt prohibition – as long as there is no forcing of wills or violent actions.

With the occurrence of all of the above, it is no wonder that Indonesia’s Democracy Index (IDI) in 2016, as released by Statistics Indonesia (Badan Pusat Statistik – “BPS”) (2017), fell to 70.09, down 2.73 points from 72.82 in the previous year. IDI’s aspect with the most significant drop is Democratic Institutions (4.82 point), followed by Civil Freedom (3,85 point) and Political rights (0.52 point). In 2017, IDI increased slightly, but the level is still lower than it was in 2015 and 2014. IDI’s dropping trend has actually started in 2015, a year after President Jokowi took over the Government, but the public did not notice.

On a global level, the 2017 Democracy Index Report issued by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit (EIU) stated that Indonesia is “a flawed democracy with the worst performance”, crashing from rank 48 to 68 of 167 countries. The threat against civil liberty is one of the most determining factors in the drop of Indonesia’s democratic conditions and rank. EIU’s Democratic Index, which was established in 2006, is comprised of 5 variable groups: pluralism and electoral processes; civil liberty; government functionality; political participation; and political culture.

According to data from Freedom House (2018), Indonesia has a “democratic deficit”. Its status has fallen from “free” in 2006-2013 to “partly free” from 2013 until now. On the other hand, Timor Leste, which was birthed by Indonesia, rose in rank from “partly free” to “free” in 2018.

Using the “litmus test” developed by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblat to identify anti-democratic or authoritarian politicians, we conclude that President Jokowi can be categorized as an authoritarian leader. In How Democracies Die (2018), these two scholars in Harvard University’s governmental sciences submit the four primary indicators of authoritarian politicians:

  • First, rejection of democratic rules of the game, such as prohibiting certain organizations or limiting the citizens’ civil and political rights;
  • Second, denial of the legitimacy of political opponents, which may include accusing political opponents as subversive, unconstitutional, or a threat to the State’s security;
  • Third, toleration or encouragement of violence, such as by allowing – or even worse, facilitating supporters to attack or persecute political opponents, or cooperating with quasi/paramilitary to suppress political opponents; and
  • Finally, readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents including media, such as issuing regulations that limit civil liberty, anti-protest laws, and suppressing criticism from civil communities, the media, or political opponents.

Furthermore, if we use Antonio Gramsci’s analysis, it is not an exaggeration if Jokowi’s regime is labelled as a fascist regime as it has nearly perfectly co-opted scholars and academicians, mainstream media, civil community groups, college students, religious groups, the rich, regional heads, and even politicians from counter-regime political parties. In his Prison Notebooks (1929-1933), a collection of his criticisms when imprisoned, Antonio Gramsci, one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century from Italy, shows alternative limitations of fascism. According to Gramsci, fascism is a hegemonic regime of cultural awareness that expresses itself through 2 channels of power: enforcement by violence, or conditioned obedience of the elements of society towards those in power.

Gramsci’s analysis focuses on the second path (hegemony), which strongly paralyzes the people’s critical facility unknowingly. Fascist regimes make use of their supporting blocs (traditional intellectuals) to establish the legitimacy of political power and expand their influence in the community until it becomes absolute. Traditional intellectuals, or “fascist regime compradors” according to Gramsci, are the natural opponents of solidarity blocs (organic intellectuals).

During the four years of Jokowi’s regime in power, democracy has undergone a crisis. These are symptoms of fascism covered in democracy, a morass of the people’s blind fanatism. For blindly fanatic followers, “No matter what, Jokowi can do no wrong!”