Modernity and globalization have helped instigate the wave of democratization across the globe over the past decades. In Indonesia the transition or consolidation toward full-fledged democracy has manifested the old utopian dream to have a president directly elected by people.
The two successful presidential elections in 2004 and 2009 are determinant factors to ensuring
the proper path toward democratic consolidation, but democracy is not always about political leaders such as a president, the legislature, a governor, mayor or even village chief.
Democracy requires a balance of attention paid to the people as the key indicator of democracy and the relationship between political leaders and their constituents.
It is common knowledge that a candidate who runs for office will seek every avenue to be “in touch” with his or her constituents. It is also common knowledge that the preponderance of campaign promises to the masses are among the first and easiest priorities to overlook.
This paradox in Indonesian democracy is yet to influence the attitude of the younger generation en-route to domestic politics, which in the end shapes the apathy of the population toward the political process.
The question will be how long this sort of system lasts in the so-called Indonesian democracy.
The question can be answered by assessing the impacts of democracy in Indonesia so far. First, centralization of the political lives of the elite has 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 the widening escalation of this gap in this country.
The soaring income inequality, which was around 40 in 2000-2007 on the Gini Index, increases the possibility of another form of social dissatisfaction with the government and the system of governance.
Street protests will remain the preferred mode of freedom of expression.
“The privilege of Yogyakarta province to have its Sultan rule as governor is at the willingness of the majority of representatives.”
Second, the political mobilization that took shape in “professional demonstrators” is ruining participatory democracy in Indonesia. It’s often revealed by the media that participants in street protests periodically appear for professional reasons rather than political motivations.
Third, there is the crisis of “constitutionalism”, in which the government, under high pressure, is unable to materialize the message of the Founding Fathers to extend the social welfare of the nation. On several occasions related to the socio-economic gap the policies of government have failed to address the needs of its “unequal” citizens.
Despite the conflicts of interest that might have shaped the policy making process, I would argue that it is for the lack of constitutionalism and a collapse of the manifestation of the fifth principle of the Pancasila ideology: “Social justice for all Indonesian people”.
For these three reasons, we might assume that the Indonesian political system is still under the predominance of its leaders instead of being shaped by the mutual powers of the masses, leaders and the elite.
Therefore, in order to maintain the pace toward a more consolidated democracy of Indonesia, the country needs better leadership qualities for political offices and improvement in mass political orientation.
Here the elite plays a larger role. The way leaders should act upon their authority 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 the example set by leaders, the ability and comprehension toward resolving problems and the ability to motivate and guide society. Leadership qualities inherently also develop the spirit of good morals, religiosity and constitutionalism.
These qualities, in my opinion, will bridge a national transition in the future. The question now is who can answer this need in the next scheduled election?
Indonesian democracy truly has its own identity. The national and provincial governance sometimes overlooks the substantial value of democracy.
The current debate about monarchy in Yogyakarta can be considered as one case about how procedural democracy adopted by Indonesia can sometimes undermine the will of the people, which is the voice of democracy itself.
The dispute is a result of pursuit of power, or struggle for power, in the minds of every politician.
Why is that so? In my understanding, democracy rests in the voice of the people governed by the elected representatives through an election mechanism.
The privilege of Yogyakarta province to have its Sultan rule as governor is at the willingness of the majority of representatives at the Yogyakarta legislative council, who were elected through a fair and free election. If the majority agrees on that, is democracy flawed?
The other factor would be related to the history of Indonesia independence, wherein Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, also a statesman, agreed to join the republic given special status for the province of Yogyakarta.
If democracy can only be understood through a costly election process, which is also subject to vote buying, black campaigns and sometimes intimidation, we should reconsider the system.
Let’s not sacrifice the uniqueness and identity of Indonesian democracy for short-term interests, as it could endanger democracy itself.
The writer is program coordinator of the International Affairs Department at Gadjah Mada
Opini The Jakarta Pos 23 Desember 2010