Indonesia’s Democratic Index steadily decreases over the past two decades

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Indonesia Institute of Sciences (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia – “LIPI”) researcher Siti Zuhro. (Photo: INDEPEDENSI.COM)

IO – Several researchers claim that Indonesia’s Democratic Index (“IDI”) has declined greatly. Member of the Indonesian National University’s Islam and Community Research Center (Pusat Penelitian Islam dan Masyarakat – “PPIM”) Advisory Council, Jakarta Komaruddin Hidayat said that the decrease is affected by powerful political parties that produce party executive officials and party legislators. “As we all know, political parties are generally “rootless”. Politics is high cost. Even though they have neither money nor qualified HR, they can profit from selling their party’s seat as a “boarding pass” for candidacy, and there’s a lot of money there,” he said in the Virtual Discussion with HMI Alumni themed “Quo Vadis Indonesia’s Democracy” on Sunday (13/12/2020). 

Komaruddin stated that political parties frequently fail to implement the actual meaning of democracy, as they tend to have their own goals. They frequently achieve these goals by relying on money and power. “But as per my critique earlier, these political parties hijack democracy. Democracy has two primary purposes: One, educate the people in political participation. Two, to ensure that the people are democracy-literate. Nowadays, even though people are aware, with sufficient education in democracy, when it is not implemented in a healthy way by political parties then people will blame democracy. That’s because political parties fail to channel the people’s wants and needs through elections,” he said. 

Indicators’ Executive Director Burhanuddin Muhtadi said that an LSI survey indicates that political elites and public have different perceptions and definitions of democracy. On the other hand, political elites are not always the perpetrator in democratic regression. “The old argument that states that democratic regression is always caused by the elite is not entirely true. In many aspects, our public also contributes to the great regression in our democracy. I have studies that show me that our public have serious problems: They are not just illiberal, but they are temperamental, they easily believe in hoaxes, and they are vulnerable to money politics. The fact that our people are mostly illiberal even though they supposedly ask for democracy is being used by our politics,” he said. “Based on this study, I am not saying that our political elites are clean from anti-democracy. What I’m saying is that ultimately, we are all equally responsible for democratic regression, as our very citizens, whom one generally expects to stop the regression of democracy, actually contributes greatly to it.” 

A Drastic Drop 

Muhammadiyah University Yogyakarta Professor Bambang Cipto said that our democratic system is highly vulnerable to pressures coming from outside of Indonesia. “Our democracy is actually held together by outside pressure. When foreign pressure is relaxed, it automatically crashes. As I see it, this is because our single judicial power is insufficient. I don’t believe that Indonesia makes any effort at democracy. Since our democracy is so weak, we see that the even the majority of the members of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) support the current regime and defend the Government from criticism. They even do not support the KPK in its effort to eradicate corruption,” he said. 

Even worse, the National Team for the Acceleration of Reduction of Property (Tim Nasional Percepatan Pengurangan Kemiskinan – “TNPPK”) Report to the Vice President in October 2019 notes that democratic degeneration affects many things, especially in terms of HR quality. “1% of the wealthy controls 50% of our national assets, while 26.42 million of our citizens still live below the poverty line with an income of IDR 400,000 a month. Our average PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores are 73 for mathematics, 74 for reading, and 71 for science. These scores are lower than those of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Brunei. Our human capital index is far lower than that of neighboring countries: The majority of our citizens (40%) only graduate from Elementary School or lower, while only 10% of us graduate from college. Yet our primary development project is not to upgrade our HR capacity, but to construct a new capital city,” he said. 

On one hand, the Chairman of Brawijaya University Faculty of Social and Political Sciences’ Master Social Studies Program, Wawan Sobari, confirms that the IDI has lowered greatly within the past 11 years. On the other hand, he said that the decrease only occurs in several specific indexes.

 “Actually, our overall democratic measure has risen within the past 11 years; even though some decline occurred in the meantime, our overall index increased to 74.92 in 2019. However, a more detailed look into the IDI shows that not all of the democratic aspects serve as the basis of measurement. The decrease occurred in the civil freedom index, while political rights and democratic institutions improved,” Wawan said. “Only one aspect of “Political Rights” decreased, i.e. “Free and Fair Elections”. Similarly, only one aspect in “Democratic Institutions” decreased, “The Bureaucratic Role of Regional Governments”. Meanwhile, three aspects of “Civil Freedom” have decreased: “Freedom to Gather and Unite”, with an average change of -1.22 points, “Freedom of Opinion (an average change of -1.79 points), and “Freedom of Religious and Spiritual Faith” (an average change of -0.69).” 

Meanwhile, LP3ES Director of Center for Media and Democracy Wijayanto said that the problem of lowered democracy in Indonesia is affected by oligarchic powers that arise from consolidated false capitalism. This is proven by the fact that the revised Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi – “KPK”) Law was rejected by many, but the President and DPR approved it anyway. “It becomes clearer by the day that we the citizens are faced with such a strong oligarchy in our own land. Therefore, it is only natural that our democracy continues to degrade. Therefore, in order to preserve democracy, to return the dignity of democracy as a force from the people, by the people, and for the people, we all must unite and produce a true democratic country,” he said. 

Similarly, Indonesia’s Institute of Sciences (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia – “LIPI”) researcher Siti Zuhro records that democracy has slid downhill within the 22 years that passed since the 1998 Reforms. According to the results of studies on local democracy (local cultural values, the role of local actors and institutions) in various regions, it is clear that the reality of existing political parties and quality of law makes it hard for us to form a truly substantive democracy. “Indonesia has not succeeded in forming effective National and Regional Governments, as we are still unable to fully implement our Governmental policies at either national or regional levels. Democracy in Indonesia is still at a procedural level; it has not yet reached a substantial level. The indicators do not only refer to potentially distortive variables of Regional and Presidential Elections, but also to other variables that BPS has found to decreased in 2017-2018: Civil liberty, down 0.29 points from 78.75% to 78.36%; and political rights, down 0.84 points from 66.63% to 65.79%,” she said. 

Siti stated that the variables with the biggest decrease are “Political Participation in Decision-making and Monitoring” (down 1.88 points) “Freedom of Religious and Spiritual Faith” (down 1.42 points). She further said that according to Statistics Indonesia (Badan Pusat Statistik – “BPS”), the overall IDI score has also decreased. According to IDI, our national democracy is now in a “medium” condition. “If we refer to the highly volatile political dynamics in 2019-2020, with its many intense conflicts and violence, we will notice that IDI tends to decrease. This is worsened by the ever- increasing limitation on freedom of opinion and critical thinking, as well as continued increase in political polarizing despite reconciliations made by the elite,” she said. “Public distrust continues to increase, while an atmosphere of repression becomes more intense too. At this stage, our democracy is practically stagnant because our elites continue to maintain the status quo for the sake of their personal interests.” (dan)