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Democracy in retreat, government tending towards authoritarianism: LP3ES

Kompas.com - November 17, 2020

Sania Mashabi, Jakarta – The Institute of Research, Education and Information of Social and Economic Affairs (LP3ES) says that democracy in Indonesia is experiencing a retreat, which had already been predicted by the LP3ES in its democratic outlook report in late 2019.

LP3ES Center for Media and Democracy Director LP3ES Wijayanto said that the state of democracy is becoming increasingly grim and that the government is tending in the direction of authoritarianism in several ways.

"In late 2019 the LP3ES issued a democratic outlook which reported the democratic retreat and the tendency to turn back in the direction of authoritarianism", said Wijayanto in a virtual discussion titled "Democracy in the Era of the Pandemic" on Tuesday November 17.

"The outlook report also predicted an increasingly dim future for democracy in Indonesia which unfortunately has now become a reality, not least because of the incorrect handling of the pandemic", he continued.

Wijayanto said that this democratic retreat has been marked by a consolidation of the oligarchy, meaning power over policy determination is being held based on the interests of a certain group.

Then, efforts at silencing opposition, ignoring the principles of democracy, intolerance and promoting the use of violence. This situation has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic and government's poor communication.

"The situation with the oligarchy that occurred before this was the precondition for our handling of the pandemic. The result was policies which did not prioritise human life", he said.

Wijayanto highlighted repressive actions by police against activists and people protesting against recently enacted Law Number 11/2020 on Job Creation and violence against journalists and academics on campus.

There was also a ministerial circular sent to university rectors asking students not to take to the streets to protest the Job Creation Law.

"Then cyber troops going into operation every time there was a bad policy, criticism which has emerged is not heeded and instead [the government] has tried to influence public opinion to agree [with them]", said Wijayanto.

Policies impacting on democracy

Earlier, Wijayanto outlined a number of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's polices which have impacted upon democracy that can be seen from a research paper titled "Jokowi and the New Developmentalism", by the Australian National University.

Wijayanto said that the research cited President Widodo as making policies which focus on the infrastructure development sector. The government however has ignored other problems in Indonesia such as the protection of human rights and eradicating corruption.

"Jokowi's model of development tends to focus on infrastructure so it ignores other problems such as the problem of protecting human rights, eradicating corruption and so forth", said Wijayanto during a virtual discussion on Thursday November 5.

And it is not only in terms of infrastructure development. Wijayanto said that the democratic retreat can be seen from the government's attitude on the formulation of the Omnibus Law on Job Creation.

The government continued deliberating the Omnibus Law despite attracting opposition and criticism from academics and social organisations.

"The Omnibus Law is not just problematic in terms of substance and formal legal issues, but there were demonstrations, then those who were critical were terrorised, and lecturers who were critical got controlled and reprimanded on campus, this is also part of the retreat and sacrificing of democracy", said Wijayanto.

Based on this, Wijayanto said that what is needed at the moment is for the civil opposition to consolidate and be smart in criticising government policy. "We can't be fragmented, we have to form coalition and be aware of the situation together", he said.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "LP3ES: Kemunduran Demokrasi, Pemerintah Cenderung ke Arah Otoritarianisme".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2020/11/17/18064931/lp3es-kemunduran-demokrasi-pemerintah-cenderung-ke-arah-otoritarianism