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28 Mar 2023

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Indonesia Entering the Era of New Style Authoritarianism? 

From various indicators, Jokowi’s government indeed leads to authoritarianism, academics say. – Chairman of the PP Muhammadiyah in the Field of Law, Busyro Muqqodas, summarizes the situation of Indonesia during the second period of President Joko Widodo’s leadership as follows: “New-style authoritarianism or neoauthoritarianism .”In an online discussion , the former Chair of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) gave an example of how democracy retreated in the Jokowi era. One of them is the matter of placing many police officers in government agencies. “The TNI was successfully cleansed of dual function, now the multifunctional is carried out by the National Police.”

Several state institutions led by police officers , both those who are still active or have retired early, include the KPK, the State Intelligence Agency, the Agency for Logistics, the National Narcotics Agency, the National Counterterrorism Agency, to the Ministry of the Interior.

Wijayanto, Director of the Center for Media and Democracy of LP3ES, an institution that has routinely issued social studies since the New Order, said there are at least four indicators of a country or government system that can be called authoritarian. The indicators are taken from Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s latest book, How Democracies Dies, published 2018 ago.

Ironically, Indonesia has fulfilled all four indicators, said Wijayanto.

The first indicator is the existence of rejection or at least a weak commitment to democratic rules of the game. Wijayanto said, this was seen when Jokowi instructed regional heads to the army to campaign for government policies and asked them to ward off many false news related to him before the 2019 Presidential Election.

Another example is that there are efforts to mobilize regional heads to the National Police to support incumbents.

“The combination of mobilization of civilian officials and military or law enforcement officers is typical of how an incumbent advances to be re-elected,” Wijayanto told Tirto reporter on Tuesday (6/16/2020).

Another example occurred in December 2019. At that time there was a discourse from political parties supporting Jokowi regarding the amendment of the Constitution that allows the president to serve three terms . At that time Jokowi was just angry without doing anything more concrete.

The second indicator is suppressing opposition. In this context, Wijayanto said Jokowi did that first by giving Gerindra – the main opposition party in the 2019 Presidential Election – two ministerial seats. As a result, other opposition, namely Democrats, PAN and PKS, have no spurs in the legislature. Their voices are lame compared to the coalition of parties supporting the government.

This maneuver became even more apparent when the government coalition party revised the MD3 Act and added the chair of the MPR . As a result, more parties have the opportunity to get seats, move closer to power, and no longer be opposition.

The next indicator is relatively more direct impact on civilians: giving tolerance or even encouraging apparatus violence to citizens. This also happened in the Jokowi era, said Wijayanto, for example the case of the Corruption Reform Movement in September 2019. LBH Jakarta called the police approach when dealing with mass actions at the time “was a repressive, violent approach .”

Another example besides the one called Wijayanto is the action that led to the riots on May 21-23. The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) said there were 10 people killed in the incident, four of whom were still children (under 18 years). Eight people died due to being shot by live ammunition.

It was this background that later made Kontras and YLBHI equally assess the violence by the authorities increasingly in Jokowi’s era. They also urged the government to immediately reform the large-scale National Police .

The last indicator also has a broad impact on civilians, namely the willingness of the authorities to limit civil liberties, including the media.

According to Wijayanto, several measures of civil liberties that were restrained and violated in the Jokowi era were: banning and raiding books , dissolution and terror against critical discussions , forcibly dispersing and arresting participants in demonstrations of the Papuan issue , to hacking and tapping pro-democracy activists .

“There was an agreement among at least a dozen political scientists from within and outside the country that Indonesia is undergoing a process of decline of democracy which is formulated in various terms, from the decline ( regression, decline, back sliding ) to the turning back towards authoritarianism ( authoritarian turn ) and authoritarianism new ( neoauthoritarianism ), “he said.

The setback has been gradual since 2016 and continues in more serious gradations after the 2019 elections, marked by the examples already mentioned: from the start of ignoring democratic rules to the disappearance of opposition in parliament.

If that is still lacking, Wijayanto added that since the last two years the Jokowi regime has very easily intervened in the bastion of academic freedom: the campus. One form of intervention is the direction of the Minister of Research, Technology and Higher Education (this ministry is now merged) so that the chancellor urges students and lecturers not to take to the streets .

“The erosion of academic freedom these days,” concluded Wijayanto, “is a sign of the worst setback of democracy since the 1998 political reforms and a turning back towards authoritarianism.”

“Not Easy to Apply Authoritarian”

Chief Expert Staff of the Presidential Staff Office (KSP) Donny Gahral Adian said “after the reformation, anyone [the president] including Jokowi is not easy to apply authoritarian.” “It is difficult for the president to be authoritarian because [the work] is overseen by the DPR, NGOs, mass organizations. So there are many supervisors,” he said, Monday (06/15/2020).

However, he stressed Jokowi believes that political civil rights “require economic, socio-cultural rights” such as “education, prosperity, through various social assistance schemes.” Donny said, “Mr. Jokowi remains committed to upholding human rights, respecting basic rights, respecting the basic freedoms of citizens, especially freedom of socio-economic rights.

In other words, according to Donny, the Jokowi government prioritizes economic and social rights more than civilians. Fulfillment of eco-social rights is a prerequisite alias the foundation for the fulfillment of civil rights rights.

This statement did not address the issue because the authoritarian tendencies expressed by Busyro and further elaboration by Wijayanto were in the civil-political sphere. This is related to how ordinary people dare to criticize their own government without fear of criminalization, not whether the stomach and the kitchen needs of the community are met by the government.

A similar criticism was raised by human rights activist Haris Azhar when commenting on the 2019 Presidential Election debates. At that time Haris said Jokowi only focused on discussing the issue of the economy and blatant abandon of the political rights.

“Civil and political rights and the eco-tourism and culture cannot be separated, they must be fulfilled as a whole,” he said at the time.

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