Quo Vadis Indonesia?

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1.Prof. Miroslaw Matyja (Director of Miroslaw-Matyja-Academia of Democracy in Indonesia)

2.Muhammad Ridwan (Vice Director of MMFD – Chief Editor of BIRCI Journal)

On February 14th, 205 million eligible voters will elect a new president of Indonesia. Voters will be selecting not only the next president of the world’s third-largest democracy, but also executive and legislative representatives at all administrative levels. The three leading candidates for the presidency are defense minister Prabowo Subianto, long-time Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan. The incumbent president Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

Heritage of Jokowi
In the last five years, i.e. during Jokowi’s second term in office, more and more authoritarian tendencies have emerged. Indonesia has numerous democratic achievements such as comparatively good freedom of speech and press, a strong anti-corruption agency, independent courts and free and fair elections. Proper decentralization has been implemented and there are elected local governments. The political influence of the military and police was reduced. Although these achievements have not been completely abolished, they have been modified so that they no longer stand in the way of the president’s policies. Similar to many other countries, a democratically elected president continues to expand his powers and thus damages democracy. Jokowi, who many saw as a bearer of hope for Indonesian democracy, unfortunately turned out to be the opposite from today’s perspective. Democracy in Indonesia is no longer stable and is even in danger.

What are the challenges for the future president?
The challenges for the new president are the same as those faced by the old one: further developing Indonesia’s economic recovery, improving education, creating jobs, reducing poverty, combating environmental degradation and much more. It may be that these tasks can be tackled well with a fairly authoritarian political system. In my opinion, however, other challenges such as respect for fundamental and human rights, the rule of law and social justice should also be addressed. After ten years of Jokowi, there is a great need for action here.

What about the direct democracy in Indonesia?
Above all, democratic development should be in Indonesian society guaranteed again. Indonesia is a big federalist country. The federalist character of this state is very suitable for the development of direct democracy at the local level. Such a development would certainly be an opportunity to ensure long-term democracy. The people should make the most important decisions locally themselves – in a referendum. Indonesian citizens are sovereign, which is why they want to have a say in their own affairs. The candidate who recognizes this has the best chance to became the president of Indonesia. By the way: the idea of direct democracy in Indonesia has been taught by our Academia for several years.