Indonesia's Democratic Paradox: Competitive Elections amidst Rising Illiberalism

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    Indonesia's 2019 elections confirmed both the country's status as a competitive electoral democracy and the trend of decreasing democratic quality. In this article, we investigate this seemingly paradoxical pattern by highlighting four political arenas directly associated with the elections. First, the incumbent government's failure to secure a larger margin of victory for President Jokowi highlights the continued competitiveness of the electoral system, despite attempts to use state agencies for the president's re-election campaign. Second, although efforts to mobilise state resources for Jokowi were largely unsuccessful, they added to an already significant illiberal shift. Third, the elections further accelerated the weakening of political parties, with the personalisation of legislative polls achieving new heights. Finally, the election campaign and results led to a level of religious polarisation in voting behaviour that was last seen in the 1950s. In analysing these themes, we argue that while the co-existence of Indonesia's competitive elections with illiberal trends appears contradictory, the two are in fact interrelated.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)295-317
    JournalBulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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