Indonesia's democratic stagnation: anti-reformist elites and resilient civil society

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    As Egypt and Tunisia begin difficult democratic transitions, comparative political scientists have pointed to the world's largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, as a role model. Seen as a stand-out exception from the global recession of democracy in the pre-2011 period, Indonesia has been praised as an example of a stable post-authoritarian polity. But a closer look at Indonesia's record in recent years reveals that its democratization is stagnating. As this article demonstrates, there have been several attempts to roll back reforms introduced in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While not all of these attempts have been successful, Indonesia's democratic consolidation is now frozen at 2005-2006 levels. However, the reason for this democratic stasis, the article argues, is not related to Diamond's notion of societal dissatisfaction with bad post-authoritarian governance. Opinion polls clearly show continued support for democracy despite citizen disgruntlement over the effectiveness of governance. Instead, I contend that anti-reformist elites are the main forces behind the attempted roll back, with civil society emerging as democracy's most important defender. This insight, in turn, questions the wisdom of the decision by foreign development agencies - in Indonesia, but other countries as well - to reduce their support for non-governmental organizations and instead intensify their cooperation with government.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)209-229
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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