Politics, Law, Security

Democracy in Regression

This week, a former key minister during the New Order government of President Suharto, Dr. Emil Salim, raised eyebrows with a commentary in the Jakarta Post in which we he agreed with the conclusions of a recent book by Indonesian and Australian academicians: “Democracy in Indonesia: From Stagnation to Regression”. Salim, an economist educated at UC Berkley, said: “If initially after the fall of the New Order in 1998 Indonesia was transformed from a highly centralized regime into a vibrant democracy through a landmark election in 1999, two decades later, most political analysts agree that its democracy is in decline, as indicated by populist mobilization, growing intolerance, deepening sectarianism, increasingly dysfunctional electoral and representative institutions, and the deterioration of civil liberties.” Salim pointed to the corrupting influences of campaign contributors, rising income inequality, and the weakening influence of civil society groups. As an example, Salim wrote: “the license for international environmental group World Wildlife Fund, for example, was revoked even though it had worked in Indonesia for decades.” The book is available via the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.