A Battle Between Two Populists: The 2019 Presidential Election and the Resurgence of Indonesia’s Authoritarian Constitutional Tradition
21 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 4, 2019
Democracy in Indonesia is currently facing its most serious test in a decade. Both major contenders for the 2019 presidential elections revealed populist tendencies. This is clearly dangerous for Indonesia’s young democracy. In addition to explaining this threat, this paper searches for reasons in Indonesia’s constitutional tradition to understand why two populist candidates with authoritarian tendencies have emerged in a country once hailed as the most stable democracy in Southeast Asia. It finds that despite Reformasi – the series of democratic amendments to the 1945 Constitution between 1999 and 2002 that liberated Indonesia from Soeharto’s authoritarian New Order regime – elements of Indonesia’s authoritarian constitutionalist tradition have survived. Central among these is the concept of ‘integralism’, which was propounded by Soepomo (the main drafter of the 1945 Constitution). This concept sees the government and the people as a unity, an idea that is antithetical to the liberal constitutionalist notion of legally constrained political power. Until this aspect of Indonesia’s constitutional tradition is eradicated, its democracy will remain vulnerable to populist leaders.
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