February 26, 2024

Democracy Must Empower Society

The political system in Indonesia merely views democracy as a tool to attain power, limiting democracy to procedural aspects only. However, the essence of democracy lies in an empowered society, as without it, the state cannot thrive, and democracy cannot function effectively.

“Democracy must be implemented through institutions and procedures, since democracy as an abstract concept needs to be operationalized, but its essence must be accountable to the citizens and responsible to the citizens,” said Bivitri Susanti, a lecturer at Jentera Law School, in an online discussion organized by the Institute for Research, Education and Information on Economy and Social Affairs (Lembaga Penelitian, Pendidikan dan Penerangan Ekonomi dan Sosial or LP3ES) and Paramadina University on January 9th.

In the discussion titled “Masa Depan Demokrasi Jika Dinasti Jokowi Menang [The Future of Democracy if the Jokowi Dynasty Wins]” Bivitri stated that currently, all power-controlling institutions are weakened and undermined. This has led to the phenomenon of autocratic legalism within democracy. She mentioned that through this phenomenon, everything can hide behind laws and legality with autocratic characteristics.

“The law should be made based on what is understood as the truth. However, now the law is used to legitimize what is wrong, making it appear right. If the state’s law says so, then it must be so. Yet, the law is formed by rulers who can bend it because of the authority they possess,” she explained.

According to her, the weakening of democracy through the law has been ongoing for a long time, evident in the attempts to kill the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the weakening of the Constitutional Court (MK). All of this is done within the legal framework through the formation of legislation and law enforcement, with the ultimate goal being weak control, making democracy easily susceptible to manipulation.

“Whatever the result of the upcoming Presidential Election, it will not significantly change democracy, as it is an inheritance of a political system that has been broken since the beginning. Therefore, a total overhaul of the system is needed,” she expressed.

Meanwhile, according to Wijayanto, the Director of the Center for Media and Democracy at LP3ES, the oligarchic power structure turns elections into mere rituals for the circulation of elites rather than being about the public and citizens. He noted similarities between the leadership styles of the Joko Widodo government and the New Order Government in efforts to perpetuate power, albeit in a more subtle manner.

“Democracy is not something that falls from the sky; we have to nurture and protect it. It’s true that our democracy is on the brink, but do we have to wait until our democracy is truly dead?” he emphasized.

Similar sentiments were expressed by the Founder of PolMark Indonesia, Eep Saefulloh Fatah. According to him, democracy is not something formatted once and for all, so there needs to be a gradual struggle for democratic improvement. However, Eep emphasized that within five years after the election, efforts to fix problematic laws should be prioritized.

“We need to rehabilitate our democracy, which has experienced various damages. From the beginning, democracy acknowledges that everyone has the potential to abuse power and seeks power. Therefore, democracy limits power. The power of the President must be reorganized by limiting the authority at the end of their term because with all the power the President possesses, there is a tendency to deviate and damage democracy,” he emphasized. []

Translated by Catherine Natalia