The Fate of Democracy in Indonesia: Reflecting the Course and the anomaly of Yogyakarta Province

Modernity and globalization have helped instigate the wave of democratization over the past decades all over the globe. In Indonesia the transition or consolidation toward fully pledged democracy has manifest the old-utopian dream to have our own president directly elected by Indonesian people. The two successful Presidential elections in 2004 and 2009 are the determinant factors to ensure the proper path toward democratic consolidation. But democracy is not always about political leaders such as President, Representatives, Governor, Major, and even Head of the village; democracy required balance of attention to the mass of population as the key indicators to democracy and the relationship between political leaders and their constituents.

It is commonly known in public that the candidate who runs for office will try anything they could to be “in touch” with his or her constituents and the fact that preponderance of the political campaign promises to the mass is on the first priority to overlook as well. This well known paradox in Indonesian democracy is yet to influence the attitude of younger generation en route for domestic politics which in the end shape the apathy of the population toward political process.

The question will be how long this sort of system last in so called Indonesia democracy?

The question can be answered by assessing the impact of democracy so far in Indonesia. First, the centralization of the political life in the elite widened the gap between the elite and the masses, therefore, the rich and the poor. The decision of the House to raise its members’ salary in the midst of economic hardship is believed to be the locus of gap widening escalation in this country. The high number of income inequality that is around 40 averaged 2000-2007 on Gini Index, therefore, increase the possibility of another form of social dissatisfaction toward the government and the system of governance which also help to determine the street protest will still become the preferential mode of freedom of expression.

Second, the political mobilization that took shape in the format of so called “professional-demonstrators” is ruining the participatory democracy in Indonesia. It’s often revealed by media that numbers of participant in street protests are periodically appeared in the movement for a professional—or so they called—reason rather politically motivated. Third, the crisis of constitutionalism in which the government, under highly pressured conditions, unable to manifest the message brought by the Founding Fathers to extend the social welfare of the nations. In several occasion, related to point above about great social and economy gap among elite and masses, the policy of government failed to address the needs of its “unequal” citizens. And, despite the conflict of interest that might shaped the policy making process, I would rather argue that it is for the lack of constitutionalism and collapse of the manifestation of the fifth principles of Indonesia,”Social justice for all the Indonesian people”.

For all those three reasons, we might assume that Indonesian political system is still under predominance of its leaders rather than shaped by mutual power by both masses and leader; in this context I’d rather called elite. Therefore, in order to maintain the pace toward a more consolidated democracy of Indonesia, the country needs better leadership qualities of the political offices holders and, also, improvement in the mass orientation toward politics. But here, the elite play a bigger role. The way leaders should act upon his or her leadership needs to be guided under the three principles of leadership well known in Indonesia: Ing Ngarsa sung Tulada, Ing Madya Mangun Karsa, Tut Wuri Handayani. The three basic principles of leadership stress in the example set by leaders, the ability and comprehension toward resolving problems, and the role to motivate and guide the society. And inherently, the leadership qualities also develop in the spirit of good moral and religiosity, as well as constitutionalism. These qualities, in my opinion, will bridge a national transition in the future. The question is now rather who can answer to this need in the next scheduled election?

In the other hand, Indonesia democracy truly has its own identity. The national and provincial level governance, sometimes overlooked the substantial value of democracy. The current heated debate about monarchy in Yogyakarta special province can be considered as one case about how procedural democracy adopted by Indonesia can sometimes undermine the will of the people, in my opinion, the voice of democracy itself and this is due to the power seeking or rather struggle for power orientation in the mind of every politicians since the higher power you possess, the bigger and greater authority at your disposal.

Why is that so?

In my understanding, democracy rest in the voice of the people governed by the elected representatives through an election mechanism. The privilege of Yogyakarta province to have its Sultan rules as governor is at the willingness of majority representatives of the House of Yogyakarta province who also elected through a fair and free election. The other political offices are also competed through elections in the city, district, and smaller levels. If the representatives majority agree on that, in what flaw does it not democratic? The other factor would be related to the history of Indonesia independence wherein Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, also national state-man, agreed to join the republic for a special status of the province of Yogyakarta. The agreement is widely known to public and recorded in the National Archive.

If democracy can only be understood through a costly, I mean seriously expensive, election process which also subject to vote buying, black campaign, and sometimes threat, we should really rethink to adopt the system for its lack of transparent and fair practices in the election. Let’s not sacrificing the uniqueness and the identity of Indonesia democracy over a short period interest over power and control for doing so could endanger the national integrity.

Heru Prama Yuda


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