July 15, 2024

Democracy in the Grip of Political Corruption

Indonesia democracy is flawed, that is the data from the study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Indonesia has only a score of 6.71 (on a scale of 10) in the Democracy Index for the year 2022. This score remains unchanged from the previous year’s democracy index, positioning Indonesia as a country with an imperfect or flawed democracy.

With a score of 6.71, Indonesia only occupies the 54th position, a decline from the previous year’s 52nd position, out of a total of 167 countries. Referring to the official EIU website, there are five categories considered in this assessment: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation, and political culture. In the political culture category, Indonesia only scores 4.38.

Corruption seems to have become a cultural aspect of the Indonesian nation, deeply rooted since ancient times. This immoral behavior is carried out by various groups, ranging from ordinary citizens to government officials. It appears that this ailment has permeated and infected various aspects of national and state life.

Quoting from “Laporan Hasil Pemantauan Tren Penindakan Korupsi Tahun 2022” [Report on the Monitoring of Corruption Enforcement Trends in 2022] issued by Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) in February 2023, corruption cases in Indonesia increased by 8.63% in 2022, totaling 579 cases compared to the previous year’s 533 cases. The number of corruption suspects also rose to 1,396 individuals in 2022, marking a 19.01% increase from 1,173 individuals in 2021. From the data, it can be observed that corruption cases in Indonesia are on the rise, potentially contributing to the deterioration of Indonesia’s democracy.

Deterioration Factors
The deterioration of Indonesia’s democracy index will undoubtedly have negative consequences for the national life of the Indonesian society. One of the factors that also influences Indonesia’s democracy is political corruption. Political corruption is a key element that affects the decline in the quality of democracy.

This phenomenon can erode the strength and effectiveness of government institutions, creating an environment more susceptible to further corruption practices and potentially undermining the foundations of democracy itself. Corruption also exacerbates issues of inequality in political participation because in an ideal democracy, every citizen should have an equal opportunity to participate.

Furthermore, political corruption is detrimental to national development as it often leads to the misuse of funds and public resources, which should be utilized for the benefit of the people. This can also result in ineffective public policies that tend to favor specific individuals involved in corruption, rather than benefiting the entire society.

Artidjo Alkostar stated that political corruption in Indonesia is reflected in several corruption cases perpetrated by public officials or state organizers. The prevalence of political corruption revealed in Indonesia reflects the extent to which political corruption has become widespread, involving various levels of power, both in the executive and legislative branches.

This corruption practice arises when individuals in positions of power exploit their positions to strengthen influence, status, and personal wealth. Regulations and laws are often misused, ignored, or tailored to serve their own interests, allowing them to evade punishment and maintain their power and wealth.

Recent widely-heard news concerns corruption allegedly committed by a high-ranking government official, the Minister of Communication and Information, related to Base Transceiver Station (BTS), with accusations of causing a state loss of Rp8 trillion. This event undoubtedly undermines the nation and the state, and has negative implications for the political culture in Indonesia.

Previously, during the leadership of President Joko Widodo, four ministers had already been named as suspects in corruption cases. The corruption allegations against the Minister of Communication and Information can certainly add another dark mark to the whirlwind of the Indonesian government, especially in relation to corruption cases, which will inevitably have adverse implications for the quality of democracy.

High Political Cost
The high political costs are one of the factors contributing to the emergence of corruption. This is also affirmed by ICW, where one of the motives for officials to engage in corrupt practices is the high political costs. Additionally, various data indicate that political costs in Indonesia are exceedingly high.


According to data from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), the average political costs for mayor or regent candidates range from IDR 20 billion to IDR 30 billion. Meanwhile, governors and their deputies require costs amounting to IDR 100 billion. Furthermore, the political costs for each presidential and vice-presidential candidate in Indonesia must prepare a minimum capital of IDR 5-7 trillion.

This is due to the fact that political corruption is also found in the campaign process, such as vote-buying, campaign financing, and so on. This certainly comes at a cost, and the aspiring leaders of the Indonesian nation must dig deeper into their pockets to secure seats in political leadership.

The high political costs in Indonesia lead state officials to potentially fall into the abyss of corruption, as they contemplate recovering the significant capital spent during campaigns. Whether willingly or unwillingly, political costs are one of the contributing factors to corruption in Indonesia.

The Corruption of Law Enforcement

To improve the democratic situation, there needs to be strong law enforcement in addressing political corruption, as well as active participation from the public in the democratic process to ensure that democratic values are respected and upheld. However, in reality, law enforcement in Indonesia is also corrupt.

Low-quality law enforcement officials are one of the reasons for the corruption of law enforcement in Indonesia, especially in the fight against corruption, including the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). Instances of corruption within the KPK can be found in various media reports, including the dismissal of dozens of KPK employees—later known as IM57+ (Indonesia Memanggil)—who had integrity in 2021.

The numerous cases of ethical violations by top officials in the KPK are also evidence of the corruption of law enforcement in Indonesia. The lack of decisive action serves as one of the obstacles to law enforcement in Indonesia, as leaders of the KPK proven to violate ethical codes only receive mild sanctions. Certainly, this corruption has adverse implications for the eradication of political corruption in Indonesia.

The quality of corrupt law enforcement can also be influenced by a flawed legal system, such as a lack of transparency, weak law enforcement mechanisms, as well as political and power influences. On the other hand, media and civil society efforts to expose corruption cases are often hindered by regulations, notably the flexible articles within the Information and Electronic Transactions Law (UU ITE). This indicates that press freedom and protection for whistleblowers are not fully guaranteed.

The prevalence of political corruption cases, coupled with the corruption of law enforcement, underscores the need for broader legal and structural reforms to address corruption in Indonesia. This should include improvements to the judicial system, increased transparency and accountability, as well as the strengthening of anti-corruption laws and regulations.

Faculty of Law Student at Universitas Negeri Semarang

Translated by Catherine Natalia