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Jokowi’s Authoritarian Turn and Indonesia’s Democratic Decline

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This article examines the decline of Indonesia’s democratic institutions under President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) ahead of his 2019 re-election bid. It argues that the latter part of Jokowi’s first term has seen a downturn in the quality of Indonesian democracy, associated with the continued mainstreaming and legitimation of a conservative and anti-pluralistic brand of political Islam; the partisan manipulation of key institutions of state; and the increasingly open repression and disempowerment of political opposition. These trends have served to unbalance the democratic playing field, limit democratic choice, and reduce government accountability. This article first discusses the medium-term ramifications of the polarised 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election and their implications for 2018’s marquee political events: a major round of sub-national elections and the presidential nomination process. It then argues that the Jokowi government has taken an ‘authoritarian turn’ ahead of the 2019 elections, highlighting its manipulation of powerful law enforcement and security institutions for narrow, partisan purposes, as well as the administration’s concerted efforts to undermine and repress democratic opposition. Finally, it frames the 2019 election as a contest between two candidates—Jokowi and Prabowo Subianto–who display little regard for the democratic status quo. The declining quality of Indonesian democracy is particularly troubling in a global context of democratic recession.
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Keywords: D72; D73; K42; authoritarianism; corruption; democratic regression; elections; political Islam; presidentialism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Australian National University,

Publication date: September 2, 2018

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