Indonesia: Local Reforms And Demonstrations


Amrih Widodo

Effervescence! That was the exact word to describe the feeling experienced by Indonesian people on the day of the general election in June. With the military and civil servants almost totally restrained from playing their traditional role during the Soeharto era of making sure that the military-backed government party Golkar won a majority of seats in the parliament and local legislatures - by means of persuasion, money politics and coercion - voters were basically free to choose the party of their liking.

The outcome, however, would have been different if the election had been conducted one or two months after Suharto stepped down. The rural population, in particular, would not have developed a degree of political maturity or the courage and assurance that their choice was in fact not monitored by State surveillance.

The one year period between the day Soeharto stepped down from his presidency to the general election was comparable to the period between the assassination of Ninoy Aquino to the day when Malacanang palace was stormed by people power. During this period, most districts and provinces in Indonesia experienced regular demonstrations by local populations over issues of land disputes, resources politics, KKN (corruption, collusion and nepotism) at the local levels, and demonstrations demanding more accountability of state functionaries as well as participation of the wider population in decision making.

The two year cycle of village official elections prior to the general election also played an important role in this process of political maturation. The following are the factors which have changed and will continue to change Indonesian political culture at the local levels: 1. Golkar no longer dominates the seats at the provincial and district levels, leadership in the executive and legislative bodies will be a matter of power negotiation between the winning parties. 2. Internal conflict in a number of parties, particularly the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle, demonstrated how party officials at the sub-district level now have much better leverage in dealing with their superiors. 3. Parties alliances have shown more creativity, varying from one district to another, in response to the concrete needs of the parties at the local levels. The lower degree of uniformity will reduce the centralized power structure within parties.

All the above factors will lead to a more direct relationship between members of local legislatures and their constituents, which in turn enable the local politics, especially in dealing with scarce resources, to dominate the concerns of both legislative and executive bodies at the local levels.

WATCHPOINT: Local concerns, especially resource politics, and individual political constituents will have more influence on the dynamics of local politics regardless of what happens at the national level.


About our company:

AFG Venture Group is an Asia and Australia based corporate advisory and consulting firm with over 20 years experience in creating alliances, relationships and transactions in Australia, South East Asia and India; including a 15 year history of corporate and equities advisory in Australia, undertaking merger, acquisition, divestment, fund raising and consulting for private and public companies.

Go to top