The Image of Democracy in Indonesia and the Lessons Learned from Egypt

*this piece is rather late published, however the story is not becoming less significant*

As the world’s eyes focused on Cairo of how a delusional authoritarian governments challenged by the so called democratic movement persistently ignore the very voice of democracy , unresolved violent conflicts entailing religious background issue reappear in Indonesia’s soil and took three lives of the Ahmadiyah—a religious sect of Islam originated from India—followers in a district called Cikeusik in Banten, Java (February 7), while the other occurrence damaged three churches in Temanggung, Central Java (February 8). It is rather an irrelevant attempt to connect the two facts separated by almost nine thousands kilometers. But, it’s also not untrue in the globalized world wherein democracy is the potential global currency. By and large, Indonesia and Egypt have several things in common. Both countries are two of most populous with moderate Muslim in its respective regions and share the same fate of being ruled by authoritarian Presidents—Hosni Mubarak and the late former President Soeharto—for three decades; adding two more years for Indonesia. The two nations also inherited great cultural values from their both prior modern state format which gave birth to the world’s wonder; Sphinx and Pyramid in Egypt and Borobudur Temple in Indonesia. The time gap between the two countries in regards to the democratic experience is perhaps the highlighted difference through which the Egyptians can withdraw useful lessons from Indonesians’ experience. In the past 13 years, as the world third biggest democracy, Indonesia has successfully conducted two direct Presidential elections with voter turnout of almost 70% and also embraced more vibrant civil society groups. The path toward more democratic governance was triggered by the students-led uprising in 1998 that forced former President Soeharto to step down within two weeks since the culminating protest and riots on May 12. Thousands of miles away and 13 years later, the people of Egypt openly demand the octogenarian ruler to step down and clear the way forward for a more democratic government. The uprising centered on Tahrir Square witnessed the fall of victims not only from the protesters but also foreign journalists who join the crowd to cover for the news. However, one crucial factor happened in Tahrir Square which did not happened in Indonesia back then was the clash between the fellow citizens which, in this context, highlighted the unbelievably supporters of the incumbent. Unlike Soeharto, Mubarak procrastinate to align with the demand of the people which actually exacerbate the anger of the people instead of giving him time for pulling resources to get an exit strategy. Surprisingly, this is just where Mubarak should follow Soeharto footprints and his next mistake if he doesn’t. Instead, Mubarak over confidently ‘delegate’ the policy making discretion to his Vice President, Omar Suleiman who is more of the same, while keep seating on his powerful chair ignoring the shouting of demonstrators on Tahrir Square “Irhal!” asking him to step down. The second lesson from Indonesia 1998 Reformasi is the successor of the authoritarian rule. Despite the rejection of Executive Report on the House session in 2009, Habibie, the caretaker who previously Vice President, was the rightful figure to craft democratic path and attracted as many as 48 political parties, among which 45 is newly established, in June 2009 Parliamentary Election. Lesson learned here is that Egyptian government is in desperate need to renew its legitimacy to regain the support from the people, and September is seems like forever in the eyes of people exciting for change in the face of government. Furthermore, it is the third lesson that Egypt should really pay close attention to. Having its multicultural ethnicity backgrounds of the population as well as religious affiliation, Indonesia and its government, who once serve as the Head of UN Higher Commission on Human Rights, have been condemned for its failure by Amnesty International to hold accountable the person responsible for several violent act throughout the country which consists of more than 17,000 islands. Thus, considering Indonesia’s experience as one of its potential teacher, the Egyptian should not merely focus on the procedural democracy but also the substantial part of it where religious freedom, rule of law enforcement, and civil liberties are guaranteed. Taking into account the potential division of society with different social, religious and political affiliation, similar problems might appear on the Nile area if peaceful coexistence within society did not take place. Further horizontal conciliation is needed as soon as the transfer of power have taken place when the bombing of Coptic Church in Alexandria on 2011 New Year’s Eve, and the patrimonial society, especially those in allegiance with Mubarak, taken into further consideration to rebuild the new Egypt. And, the raising question of to whom the control of power will be delegated, El Baradei or Omar Suleiman, might just be the determining moment of where the democratic transition in Egypt will be directed. Hence, it’s just seems like Mubarak keep continuing to make mistakes.

-Heru Prama Yuda- Graduated from Department of International Relations, Universitas Gadjah Mada Vice President of Indonesia YES (Youth Exchange and Study) Alumni Association Spent one year in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, AL (2004-2005)


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