The democratic process in Indonesia has come under serious scrutiny during the presidency of Joko Widodo (Jokowi). According to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in 2022, Indonesia’s democracy index is still considered flawed. This is due to a downward trend in the democracy index since 2014, decreasing from 6.95 to 6.71 in 2022. The index did experience a brief increase in 2015, reaching 7.03.
However, these figures are considered less than ideal when compared to the previous administration, during the era of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). The democracy index tended to increase during his time, rising from 6.41 in 2006 to 6.95 in 2014. According to Fajar Nursahid, the Director of Riset Algoritma, the decline in the democracy index is attributed to efforts that undermine democracy while ostensibly claiming to support it.
“Democracy should ideally provide equal opportunities for everyone to be chosen and nominated; if there are processes that provide additional incentives, then it’s not democracy,” said Fajar during a public discussion titled “Catatan Awal Tahun Pemilu 2024: Penguatan atau Disrupsi Demokrasi? [Notes at the Beginning of the Year on 2024 Elections: Strengthening or Disrupting Democracy?]” at Muhammadiyah University Jakarta (UMJ) on January 10th.
Fajar mentioned that in the 2024 Elections, there were significant attempts to undermine democracy through massive constitutional changes by the government, such as extending the president’s term and delaying the elections. This situation was exacerbated by the lack of independence of election organizers, the Constitutional Court (MK), and the neutrality of the Civil Service Apparatus (ASN) during the elections.
“Fortunately, we are still aware that it is a violation of the constitution. But the attempts are there, and it’s very palpable. The public also understands quite well what is happening, but again, the sounding is not loud enough,” he stated.
“Furthermore, according to Fajar, there is a need for control over the political process to make it function more effectively. Because, so far, Indonesia has inherited an unbalanced proportion between opposition and government parties. He views the weakness of political opposition as having an impact on the numerous political agendas that affirm the government’s interests. This is further exacerbated by the involvement of many civil society actors in the government.”
“As a result, we then harvested controversial laws produced by the House of Representatives (DPR). Omnibus Law, the revision of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law, the revision of the Criminal Code (KUHP) Law, all of which, the public feels like the processes are somewhat questionable,” said Fajar.
Airlangga Pribadi, a lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science, Airlangga University, Surabaya, stated that the weakening of democracy will lead to a new tyrannical system. This tendency is already evident from the lower placement of laws and democracy compared to leadership authority. He mentioned that the involvement of Civil Service Apparatus (ASN) in the candidate-winning process is evidence of higher power compared to democracy and the constitution.
“That’s why the current threat lies in processes that make law and equality easily violated by the interests and desires of those in power,” he said.
According to the Rector of UMJ, Ma’mun Murod, democracy should uphold the sovereignty of the people. However, he observed in the 2024 election process that many stages neglected the people’s interests due to lack of neutrality. For example, through the appointment of Acting (Penjabat or Pj) regional heads with a strong political undertone.
“Yet, elections require a fair and impartial referee. We can see obviously how the referee is not fair; this is one of the ongoing processes. How can we expect a fair electoral process like this?” said Ma’mun.
Ma’mun views the improvement of the quality of education as an important undertaking. He believes that the strengthening of democracy can be effectively and substantially pursued through education because, according to him, education serves as an indicator of the progress of Indonesia’s democratic quality.
According to the data from the BPS-Statistics Indonesia (BPS), the majority of the Indonesian population has indeed achieved the mandatory 9 years of education or completed junior high school/equivalent and above. However, the percentage of the population not completing elementary school or its equivalent is quite high, at 9.01%. Meanwhile, the proportion of the population attending university is only 10.15%.
“In the end, what happens is a ‘sembako [nine basic commodities] democracy.’ So, the measure of who is chosen depends on the quantity of sembako distributed. When there is a lot of sembako, it accumulates into the total number of votes,” said Ma’mun.
The Executive Director of Perludem, Khoirunnisa Nur Agustyati, views the 2024 Elections as a complex one for all parties involved, including organizers, participants, and voters. Despite having similar regulations to the previous election, the rules of the game should be the same. However, she believes that the current election regulations have regressed. This requires civil society to work more diligently in monitoring and overseeing the election.
Furthermore, Khoirunnisa stated that, for the improvement of democracy, there needs to be a reform of political parties because other democratic institutions have already undergone significant transformations. She assesses that political parties have not yet become well-established and democratic institutions, even though all public policies stem from political parties.
This is supported by the findings of Transparency International Indonesia (TII) through the assessment of the central management of political parties that own seats in the DPR (the House of Representatives). Of the nine parties evaluated based on internal regulations, structure and human resources, as well as transparency of information, the results indicate that each dimension averages a score of 26%-50%, with a tendency towards suboptimal performance.
“If we are talking about democracy today, then, of course, we need to discuss the improvement of political parties as well,” said Khoirunnisa.
She also reminded that what is difficult in democracy is maintaining sustainable democracy.
Therefore, Khoirunnisa urges all elements of society to participate in monitoring every stage of the election. This is important because all election participants want to win, making the potential for fraud always present in the election process.
“Given the current situation, the public needs to move together to oversee the election process, so that election participants are cautious due to continuous scrutiny from various parties,” she stated. 
Translated by Catherine Natalia