Rival populisms and the democratic crisis in Indonesia: chauvinists, Islamists and technocrats

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    Viewed as a stable democracy for much of the 2000s and early 2010s, Indonesia has in recent years been part of the global populist surge. In fact, national politics has been marked by competition between three rival populist streams: chauvinism, Islamism and technocratic developmentalism. This article discusses the conditions under which such a three-track populism could emerge in Indonesia. In identifying the drivers of populism, it points to the existence of a major religio-political cleavage, the framing of that cleavage in a narrative of economic inequality, the easy targeting of cultural minorities, and the collaboration of established parties. Drawing from survey data to substantiate its claims, the discussion demonstrates that populist attitudes are spread widely across the ideological landscape; that its intensity is highest at the extreme ends of Indonesia's Islamist-pluralist spectrum; and that populist citizens are more concerned with purported threats to their identity than the kind of politico-economic hardship that much of the classic populism literature has focused on. Most importantly for Indonesian democracy, the three types of populism have interacted among each other, and with the non-populist political establishment, in a way that has severely undermined the quality of the democratic polity.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAustralian Journal of International Affairs
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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