To celebrate Indonesia’s 72nd birthday, I post a talk I gave at TED Global in 2014, musing about why the country was so invisible internationally. I reasoned that successful multi-cultural democracies don’t make the headlines. Would I give the same talk now?
Earlier this month, tens of thousands of white-robed protesters stomped through the streets of Jakarta, baying for the blood of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, aka Ahok. To simplify a complex story, Ahok stood accused of the sin of quoting the Quran while being Christian. In the best Indonesian tradition of rent-a-crowd politics, many of the “protesters” were there for the promise of money and a packed lunch; one told TV reporters that, though he came for the cash, he…
Tomorrow ushers in a new era for Indonesian politics. For the first time since 1957, when then president Sukarno did away with parliamentary democracy, the country will have an executive and a legislature that have different loyalties. But for the first time, too, there may be a chance of amputating the ageing hands that have so leadenly guided the nation’s political parties for the past decade and a half.
So it has happened: Indonesia’s democracy has been undermined by the nation’s elected representatives. When I wrote a fortnight ago about the threat posed by parliament’s discussion of the local election bill, I was still hopeful. In a month of travel in Eastern Indonesia
When Joko Widodo was confirmed as Indonesia’s new president by the Constitutional Court late last month, there was a collective sigh of relief. Indonesians could, at least for a few years, stop worrying about a major threat to their democracy.* Not so fast. Parliament is currently discussing whipping away Indonesian’s right to elect the people who have the greatest impact on the daily lives of citizens: their mayors or district heads (walikota/bupati). The suggestion is to go back to the system in place before 2005, when district heads were appointed by the local parliament….
Indonesians love to complain about politicians, about parliament, about political parties. But they are much more enthusiastic democrats than citizens of many other nations. More than seven out of ten of Indonesia’s 171 million registered voters showed up at the polls in the last national parliamentary elections in 2009, compared with fewer than two thirds in the UK and a lamentable 40 percent in the US in 2010. Most expect a high turnout in today’s elections, too. Indonesia is also…