For the last two decades – since the fall of the Suharto regime – Indonesia’s political life can be considered fairly active. Indeed, while the autocratic New Order period was characterized by the lack of political and religious freedoms and human rights violations, the reformation era represents the restoration of democratic and liberal ideas. Therefore, as a result of more than twenty years of effort, the country is widely believed to achieve significant progress in establishing and securing democratic institutions. Yet, newly gained social and political freedoms have also led to the rise of forces that may potentially threaten the ideals of the country’s founding fathers known as ‘Pancasila’. Moreover, there are also several challenges that Indonesia faces on the way to achieving true democracy. In this regard, the current report will discuss those major tendencies in the sphere of Indonesian politics in more detail.
Democracy in Indonesia
Since 1998, Indonesian society has sought to ensure that the country is ruled by law, reach equal distribution of power among various power branches, restrain military interference in civil processes, and promote pluralism. However, the heaviest emphasis was placed on the protection of freedom of expression and fair elections. As a result, the country now exhibits one of the greatest levels of electoral process fairness and significant polarity of the current political views. Moreover, Indonesia enjoys higher than average levels of media freedoms, with violations occurring relatively rarely. On the contrary, the country still struggles to establish an adequate civil-military relationship as many military leaders – especially those from the Suharto regime – are still highly involved in politics. Additionally, the central and local governments lack transparency, and the legislative system is not independent of the executive branch. Thus, it can be concluded that Indonesia is still in a period of transformation.
Although Indonesia successfully ensured the existence of pluralism regarding political views, a similar process did not occur in the sphere of religion. The recent years – partly due to increased democratic freedoms – have shown growth in Islamic conservatism. As such, it is estimated that as much as 20% of young adults may support creating a political system based on Quran teachings. Although it is normal for society to have a variety of opinions and for its members to support their beliefs, many politicians use religious agendas to achieve personal ends. Therefore, it is evident that the topics of religious tolerance and the building of a secular society are the points of significant tensions within Indonesian society. Furthermore, the extreme Islamic conservatives’ views directly oppose the principles established in ‘Pancasila’ and may lead to the appearance of autocratic rule again.
One more point of tension within Indonesian society has formed as a consequence of growing nationalistic ideas. The latter includes support for the strong military, economic independence, and cultural expansion. However, once again, such sentiments are cleverly used by politicians who exaggerate the information concerning foreign threats and disrespect towards Indonesia, which facilitates the forming of extreme views. As a result, such radical movements can eventually cause the degradation of libertarian and democratic ideals.
Capitalism and Socialism
Finally, one more important aspect of Indonesian political life is its stand concerning the two major frameworks concerning socio-economic structure, namely capitalism, and socialism. In this respect, Indonesia does not show a clear preference for one view over the other. Instead, the politicians seek to use the benefits of both systems while avoiding their disadvantages. For instance, it is believed that ensuring government control over key production spheres would help the country to deal with capitalism-based crises.
In summary, the current report identified and discussed the major trends in Indonesian politics. They include the progress in building a free and democratic society, challenges that still exist on this path, the combination of socialism and capitalism, and the existence of strong nationalistic and religious conservative views. It is found that overall, Indonesia made substantial progress in ensuring human rights and liberties; there are still numerous challenges to overcome.