Notes on Indonesia’s democracy

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Director of the LP3ES Center for Media and Democracy, Wijayanto. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Various studies have indicated that Indonesia’s democracy is not only stagnant, but is actually regressing dangerously, drifting towards authoritarianism. Most respondents consider democracy in Indonesia as degraded, whether regressing (44.7%), stagnating (23.7%), or even already authoritarian (28.9%). Only 2.7% of respondents perceive our democracy as making progress. 

Wijayanto, Director of LP3ES Center for Media and Democracy, stated that respondents consider 25 key issues signal the regression of democracy in Indonesia. “21 of these are related to money politics in elections (100%), lack of cadre training in political parties (94.7%), populism and identity politics (86.8%), lack of opposition (92.1%), political corruption (100%), hoaxes and hate speech (97.4%), low political literacy (92.1%), low media literacy (92.1%), weak civil society (89.5%), low quality of elections (100%), blatantly partisan mass media (89.5%), low Government effectivity (94.7%), low political participation (100%), threats to freedom of opinion (94.7%), threats to freedom to associate (94.7%), leniency towards human rights violators (86.8%), economic gap (94.7%), discrimination against minorities (97.4%), tolerance or even encouragement of violence (94.6%), cyber-terror against critics (92.1%), and criminalization of critics (92.1%),” he said in the Seminar “The Rise and Fall of Indonesia’s democracy” held on Saturday (22/08/2020). 

Wijayanto further stated that Indonesia’s democracy is currently being tested. Dynastic politics, political oligarchy, media oligarchy, and lack of neutrality among public servants are now rampant everywhere. He specifically mentions dynastic politics as a main threat to our democracy, with Banten and Solo being the locus of such practices. The Ratu Atut clan controls the former, while the candidacy of Kaesang Pangarep, President Jokowi’s son in a Regional Election (there is a possibility he will stand as the only candidate), occurs in the latter. 

Political oligarchy occurs when power and wealth are concentrated in the hands of the few elites of a nation. This is a recurring problem in our democracy: this rich and powerful elite makes use of their assets to buy votes. This is an insult to democracy, as it means that elected officials may not be the ones the people want in power. “Currently, the mass media is also controlled by a few people, some of them politicians. Public servants are facing a constant dilemma: being legally obliged to remain neutral, but pressured to support the incumbent in practice,” he said. 

Wijayanto further stated that the lack of transparency in political party finances, especially during elections, compromises democracy. Even worse, buzzers and cyber troops are used by politicians to manipulate public opinion for their own purposes. “They refuse to admit that they are being paid to spread out certain opinions. On the other side of the equation, the State’s protection of personal data is weak. In fact, many people suffer hacking of their personal data due to their political activism,” he said. (dan)