May 22, 2024 Last Updated 6:09 AM, May 21, 2024

Ten years of democratisation

Ten years of democratisation

Gerry van Klinken

   Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P)
   Timur Angin

Indonesia has made an amazing transformation these last ten years. Too often this story is buried among the bad news. The military no longer dominates every level of government, as it did during the New Order. Free elections have been held many times. The long-running separatist wars in East Timor and Aceh have been resolved. This edition of Inside Indonesia looks backward and forward. It takes an honest look at how far the country has come down the road towards meaningful democracy, and how much further it might still go.

Vedi Hadiz and Olle Törnquist lead off with their answers to the central question: ‘How far to meaningful democracy?’ They agree on two points. First, Indonesia is now definitely a democracy, but second, it is a democracy with weaknesses. They differ on how much more forward movement can be expected. Read them both, then make up your own mind! We value your response.

Two other articles focus specifically on political parties. Both Marcus Mietzner and Andreas Ufen think the parties are better than most people seem to feel. Indonesian parties have deeper roots in society and history than Philippine and Thai ones, writes Ufen. Rather than give the parties a bad rap for corruption, writes Mietzner, people should make sure they are properly financed so they don’t have to be corrupt.

The last two articles look at the two toughest nuts for post-Suharto democratisers to crack. Have a look at Edward Aspinall ’s piece on Aceh, and Jun Honna ’s on the military. Here the record is mixed: an astonishing turn for the better in Aceh on the one hand, but far too little change in the military, on the other. One thing is for sure: Indonesia does not need the military to ‘hold the country together’, as so many people said for so long.

For this edition it has been my privilege to work with some of the most talented Indonesia-observers in the world. I hope the edition communicates something of the scale of the transformation which has take place in Indonesia over the last ten years, and also something of the courage the Indonesian people have shown in venturing along this path.

Some of these papers will be presented at a conference entitled ‘Indonesia ten years after (1998-2008)’, to be held in Amsterdam on 22-23 May 2008. The conference is organised by KITLV, University of Amsterdam, and Inside Indonesia. We will publish all the other papers from this conference in late May and June.

We are grateful for permission to reproduce the fabulous photo series taken by Timur Angin during the 2004 general elections. Timur Angin ( ) is an internationally published freelance photographer.     ii

Gerry van Klinken ( ) is a member of Inside Indonesia’s editorial committee. He is a researcher at KITLV institute in Leiden, the Netherlands. His latest book, Communal violence and democratization in Indonesia: Small town wars was published in 2007.  

Inside Indonesia 92: Apr-Jun 2008

Latest Articles

Labouring in vain?

May 03, 2024 - HASNA A. FADHILAH

The Labour Party (Partai Buruh) was revived in the wake of opposition to the Omnibus Law on Job Creation, but failure in the 2024 election shows they failed to connect...

Book review: Uncovering Suharto's Cold War


Film review: Inheriting collective memories through 'Eksil'


A documentary embraced by TikTokers is changing how young people understand Indonesia’s past

Indonesians call for climate action through music


Self-education and lived experience of the impacts of climate change, are driving a grassroots environmental movement

Book review: Clive of Indonesia

Apr 05, 2024 - DUNCAN GRAHAM

Subscribe to Inside Indonesia

Receive Inside Indonesia's latest articles and quarterly editions in your inbox.

Bacaan Bumi: Pemikiran Ekologis – sebuah suplemen Inside Indonesia

Lontar Modern Indonesia



A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar.