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Indonesia now a central democratic nation, say experts

Publication Date : 28-08-2014

 

In light of the public's responsiveness and shifting cultural barriers caused by this year's elections, political experts and analysts agreed on Wednesday that Indonesia had become a central democratic nation.

Center for Policy Studies and Strategic Advocacy (CPSSA) chairman Agus Widjojo noted that the April 9 legislative election and July 9 presidential election ran smoothly for the third time since 2004.

The elections also saw the public actively participate during the election campaigns of their own free will. A feat that Agus said was remarkable when compared to other global democracies.

“The most important thing about democracy is the process, not the result. People campaigned and voted in large numbers not because they were bound by law to do so, but because they wanted to,” Agus told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a discussion held by the CPSSA that looked at lessons learned from the two elections.

Agus said the implementation of democracy, which is perceived as emanating from Western, “individualistic” cultures, would not affect the core Indonesian values of togetherness and gotong royong (cooperation), adding that core values and democracy were not mutually exclusive.

“Our traditional values can be interspersed with democracy, just as is happening in Japan. If anything, the elections have encouraged Indonesians to look more favorably toward democracy,” the retired general said.

Another notable political feature that was apparent during the elections was the consolidation of power among political parties, such as the Golkar Party and the National Mandate Party (PAN) leaderships taking full control of their parties’ alignments toward losing presidential pair Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa.

“Not everyone in those parties agreed with the decision of the hierarchy to align with Prabowo. Rifts within Golkar, for example, became more visible than ever before during this period,” Agus said.

Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) researcher J. Kristiadi added that the legislative election caused a “coat-tail effect” on voters, meaning that the voters’ presidential choices affected their choice of legislators and parties at the House of Representatives.

“What is needed now is an effective government that is able to further educate the masses about politics. To do that, the most important thing is for politicians to have the will to support pro-people policies,” Kristiadi said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, filmmaker Garin Nugroho commented that the use of poetic and narrative language by the media, and the emphasis on presentation rather than substance in political programs and advertisements, Indonesia’s recent elections had stirred people’s emotions like never before.

“Television is the most widespread medium to spread information here. Therefore, whatever was broadcast also had an entertainment factor, thus sacrificing analysis in the debates in favor of more emphasis on presentation,” Garin said at the event.

He added that due to this fact, TV stations missed the chance to educate the public on politics, resulting in the public becoming complacent about media news reports and not questioning what they were being told.

However, despite these failings, Garin said he also sensed that the elections were the first time that the public had gained a genuine sense of politics; the proof being the communal watching of the presidential debates, which was usually reserved for soccer matches.


 

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