“Young people must take it upon themselves to ensure that they receive the highest education possible so that they can represent us well in future as future leaders.”
Indonesia’s democracy is undergoing a major transformation in the 2024 Elections. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in “Pemilih Muda Dalam Pemilihan Umum 2024: Dinamis, Adaptif dan Responsif [Youth Voters in the 2024 General Election: Dynamic, Adaptive, and Responsive]” estimates that the 2024 Elections will mark several significant changes in Indonesia’s political landscape. The dominance of youth politics will influence the direction of the country’s long-term strategic policies, digital penetration, and even population dynamics.”
As a country with a relatively young history of democracy, the challenges and opportunities in democratization are quite evident. One key group with significant potential to shape Indonesia’s democratic future is the youth voter demographic. According to the CSIS research, the number of youth voters could approach 114 million, accounting for a percentage of around 54% of the total Permanent Voter List (2023) released by the General Election Commission. Practically, the changes in the political landscape ahead will be driven by the dynamic, adaptive, and responsive nature, preferences, and lifestyles of youth voters, especially their shifting interests in political issues and characteristics of national leadership.
The study from the National Resilience Institute of the Republic of Indonesia (Lembaga Ketahanan Nasional Republik Indonesia or Lemhannas RI) in 2023 states that the government’s objective in the current democratization process is to achieve mature democracy by 2029. If calculated from the 1998 Reform process, followed by the first direct election in 1999, the periodization spans 30 years leading up to 2029.
To achieve that target, there are stages that must be passed. This is counted from 1999, or the first post-Reformasi election. This year could be considered the early phase when Indonesia rediscovered and reopened the “democracy faucet” that had been blocked for decades.
Indonesia, after experiencing the repressive regime of the New Order, entered a new chapter with the initiation of democracy in 1999. The democracy roadmap proposed by Lemhanas illustrates an extraordinary journey, from the establishment of democracy to consolidation and, ultimately, towards mature democracy by 2029.
The installation period of democracy, in 2004 and 2009, witnessed the formation of democratic government structures. In 2004, the first direct presidential election was held, altering the dynamics of political power. In 2009, legislative and presidential elections once again provided legitimacy to the democratic regime. This installation created the foundation for the practical implementation of democracy.
Democracy consolidation is a phase when democratic values are firmly embedded in the political culture and governance of the state. The 2014 Elections were a significant milestone marking this consolidation, with increasing maturity in public participation and tested electoral mechanisms. The 2019 Elections continued this momentum but also faced challenges such as misinformation and political polarization. Democracy consolidation in the 2024 elections becomes the main focus to address obstacles and strengthen the foundations of democracy.
Indonesia’s democracy roadmap reaches its peak in 2029, with the aspiration to achieve “Mature Democracy.” Continuous consolidation processes, the development of robust democratic institutions, and active public participation are the main drivers toward mature democracy. At this stage, the hope is that Indonesia has a political system that is not only composed of formal structures but is also deeply understood and upheld by the society as a whole.
This roadmap of Indonesia’s democracy depicts the extraordinary journey towards mature democracy. The key to this lies in the success of conducting elections. Elections are a primary instrument of democracy, playing a role as a tool for the circulation of elites and leadership, as well as a means for the actualization of the political rights and duties of all citizens. The quality and credibility of elections will undoubtedly determine the quality of the governance that will carry forward the relay of Indonesia’s increasingly mature democratization.
The initiation of democracy in 1999, marked by direct and democratic elections, was an enthusiastic moment that opened the door for Indonesia’s democratic experiments. The installation era of democracy in 2004 and 2009 involved the construction of democratic government structures, replacing the old order with a new one. Elections gradually entered a period of substantive implementation, not merely procedural and ceremonial.
However, the true challenges emerge during the phase of democracy consolidation. The elections in 2014 and 2019 demonstrated that while Indonesian democracy is progressing, there is still work to be done. Disinformation, polarization, and complex policy issues require special attention. Democracy consolidation will proceed smoothly if there is a commitment, consistency, and continuity of a process that is believed in and owned by all political actors. This is certainly not easy, as politics is often perceived, logically, as the art of interests and power.
There are many simple examples that reflect the stagnation of democracy consolidation. For instance, regional autonomy has not proven to have a significant impact on improving people’s welfare. Direct regional elections have resulted in regional leaders who often face corruption cases, the bureaucracy remains bloated and slow in serving the public, and the society itself is trapped in political apathy, as evidenced by the high percentage of non-voters (abstention) in every election event.
The 2024 Elections are a crucial milestone in this roadmap. Democracy consolidation is expected to further strengthen the foundations of democracy and bring forth leaders capable of managing the complex challenges of the 21st century. The involvement of youth voters, the utilization of technology for transparency, and the strengthening of law enforcement institutions are key factors in this journey.
Toward 2029, the hope is that Indonesia achieves mature democracy. It is not just about crafting wise and transparent policies but also about the active involvement of the community in the decision-making process. The development of strong independent institutions, comprehensive political education, and increased civic participation will be signs of success in achieving this goal. By observing Indonesia’s democracy roadmap, we are reminded that democracy is a long and continuous journey. The most important part is how we learn and grow from each stage. The next elections are not just about choosing leaders but about building a better democratic future for Indonesia.
Indicator of Maturity
The 2024 Elections are crucial to be a moment for the youth to engage in politics on a broad scale. It determines the acceleration of the aspired democracy maturity. As the sixth election since the Reform, this moment is not just about electing new leaders but also testing the resilience of democratic institutions built over the past two decades. The 2024 elections mark a significant turning point in Indonesia’s journey towards democracy consolidation.
With active participation, youth voters can shape the political narrative. The youth must advocate for democratic values and drive positive change across various layers of society. Through collective efforts involving youth voters, the government, and other societal elements, Indonesia can move towards democracy maturity by 2029. This journey is not just about ensuring the sustainability of transparent electoral processes but also solidifying democratic values in every aspect of community life.
As the next generation, young voters in 2029 are predicted to constitute more than 70% of the total population. This substantial number comes with a significant responsibility to preserve and further develop the democratic legacy passed down by their predecessors. Through education, active participation, and creative initiatives, young voters can become a dynamic force shaping a stronger and more inclusive democratic future for Indonesia. The 2024 Elections are just the beginning of a long journey towards democracy maturity, and youth voters are the key to unlocking a brighter future. 
Election Observer Activist
Translated by Catherine Natalia