Pacific Prospective features the research of graduate students.
By Matthew J. Bock – aes [at] adaptive-energy-solutions.com
The “Indonesia Model,” the post-1998 political transformation and institutional reform process during which Indonesia’s primarily Muslim society shed the shackles of authoritarianism, is considered an exemplar for Arab Spring countries transitioning to democracy. But transition marks only the beginning: consolidation occurs when liberal institutions and democratic norms are fully embedded.
Derived from Linz and Stepan’s framework, attitudes, behaviours, and constitution are indicators of democratic consolidation. Overall, an atrophy of liberalism indicates that Indonesia’s democracy remains unconsolidated. This will test the country’s democratic resilience during the 2014 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Attitudes: A study by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (Jakarta) indicates that social capital and public trust are weak as only 27 per cent of Indonesians trust their neighbours; this drops to four per cent if neighbours are of different religions. Furthermore, 11 per cent of the population trusts government officials – a difficult base from which to maintain democracy throughout turbulent political or economic events.
Behaviours: Recent events typify how President Yudhoyono’s government is unwilling or unable to utilize state powers to preserve democratic principles, opening space for illiberal organizations such as the military and Islamist groups. First, after a spate of robberies and murders by gangs that included off-duty military personnel, the civilian government was unable to press charges against members of the military. The military co-opted the investigation, undermining government authority and sending a message that military personnel may act with impunity.
Second, Islamist groups in multiple locations violently disrupted book launches and discussions by Canadian Muslim feminist author Irshad Manji, who was physically assaulted. These attacks were tolerated by police forces, local governments, and moderate Muslims alike. Appeasement of thuggish radical vigilantes, whether motivated by fear, or political and economic gain, is tolerance beyond justification. These actions are attacks on the conversation that is democracy.
Constitution: Indonesian democracy is reliant upon political parties balancing the military and Islamist radicals. But in Egypt the military and Islamists dialogue directly at the expense of secular liberals. President Yudhoyono, and the Constitutional Court, must hold the military and vigilante groups accountable to maintain pluralism and the rule of law.
Matthew J. Bock – a MAAPPS alumni and former visiting researcher at CSIS. Founder of Adaptive Energy Solutions. He currently resides in Jakarta, Indonesia writing political risk analysis and developing bioenergy projects.
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- Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation, 1996. (Book by Juan Jose Linz and Alfred C. Stepan).
- Military Politics, Islam and the State in Indonesia: From Turbulent Transition to Democratic Consolidation, 2008. (Book by Marcus Mietzner).
- Paths to Development in Asia: South Korea, Vietnam, China, and Indonesia, 2010. (Book by Tuong Vu).
- The global wave of democracy: Is Indonesia missing out on the ride?, Strategic Review, 2011.
- RI democracy weak without social trust: CSIS, The Jakarta Post, March 2012.
- The future of Islamic intellectualism in Indonesia, The Jakarta Post, May 2012.