Those who know their modern Indonesian history will remember well that it is 20 years this week since Suharto’s regime came crashing down.
Few anticipated that in the wake of Suharto that Indonesian democracy would do as well (relatively speaking) as it has.
Furthermore, across the region democracy remains in a pretty sorry state in comparison. That’s a troubling assertion given the cracks appearing in Indonesia’s democratic fabric.
But the relationship between Indonesia and democracy has always been tense and tenuous, so perhaps that’s just characteristic of regional democracy too.
As the article in The Economist here points out, the region’s democratic weaknesses can’t easily be attributed to a lack of elections.
Indonesia and Thailand both have big elections (in size and significance respectively) coming over the horizon, so there will be no shortage of electoral excitement in the next year or so.
As for meaningful democratic advances that go with those elections…hmmm, well, maybe yes…or maybe not.
Update – After posting the above I was guided to an insightful analysis by Ed Aspinall here. I am confident in suggesting we make broadly similar claims in our respective texts, although for those interested his is a much richer and thoughtful piece of writing.