We argue that Indonesia’s path to democracy was borne out of necessity brought about by a state of extreme precariousness and then molded by its lack thereof. Its lack thereof precisely reflected the internal power struggle and elite competition between remnant groups of the New Order vying under a different set of circumstances. Notwithstanding the given peculiarities of Indonesia’s transition, the current state of democracy in Indonesia is clearly one that is also shaped by the patrimonial character of the New Order. While imminent necessity acts as a temporary stop to ensure that these predatory tendencies of Indonesia’s political system do not come to the fore, its dissolution subsequently opened up the avenues for them to remerge. For even necessity has its limitations and these limitations lie in its eventual demise. Such a pattern inevitably contributed to perceptions of Indonesia’s reform process as being perceived as a vacillating “two steps forward, one step back.” The study can thus be chronologically divided into two parts. The first part mainly features the predominantly necessity-based reforms presented within administrations of the early reform period including the short-lived presidencies of Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati. The second part features the non-necessity-based reforms that constitute the “democratic consolidation” phase of the Yudhoyono presidency and beyond. This study highlights and evaluates both the specific “steps forward” (necessity present) as well as the contentious “steps back” (necessity absent) Indonesia has taken so far in its reformasi journey in an attempt to redefine the new polity. We conclude that post-reformasi Indonesia has increasingly tended toward a “decentered democracy.”
Sebastian, Leonard C.; Chen, Jonathan; and Priamarizki, Adhi,
"Indonesia Beyond Reformasi: Necessity and the “De-centering” of Democracy,"
Maryland Series in Contemporary Asian Studies:
Vol. 2014: No. 3, Article 1.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/mscas/vol2014/iss3/1