Street scene in Jakarta, Indonesia

Political situation Dealing with the consequences of years of dictatorship

Since the dictatorship under President Suharto was overcome in 1998, Indonesia has been going through a process of political transformation. Numerous reform laws have been adopted since then. For example, freedom of the press has been established, the banking sector has been reformed, social protection systems have been set up and expanded, and the influence of the military has been substantially reduced.

All the elections held in recent years have been conducted in accordance with international standards and have taken place without any major irregularities.

The emerging economy Indonesia is a member of the Group of 20 (G20). Furthermore, as an economic heavyweight in the region, Indonesia plays a key role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Just recently, however, the reform dynamic has faltered. Aspects like the rule of law and human rights have been superseded by other political goals such as promoting economic development. An active civil society is following these political processes with a critical eye, with broad discussion taking place in the media and social networks.

Rule of law and human rights

For a long time, the political culture in Indonesia was characterised by clientelism, a parliament that was not always able to assert itself, a lack of transparency in the judicial, financial and security sectors, and a cumbersome administration that was prone to corruption.

In many areas, the necessary reforms have not yet been completed. For example, the justice system is often still unable to comprehensively guarantee due process under the rule of law. Corruption remains widespread, and the government’s efforts to combat it sometimes meet with considerable resistance. In the Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by the non-governmental organisation Transparency International, Indonesia ranks 96th out of the 180 countries evaluated (2021).

The human rights situation is good overall. Deficits are to be found above all in connection with protecting ethnic, religious and sexual minorities (see also à Social situation). There is also need for action with regard to gender equality: women are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions in politics, administration, business, the judiciary and the education system. Despite a legal ban, the practice of female genital mutilation is still widespread. There has been progress on achieving the goal of eradicating child labour. However, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of children are still expected to contribute to the family income, for example by working in agriculture.

Freedom of the press and freedom of opinion are guaranteed in principle. However, intimidation and attacks on journalists still occur frequently. Given the lack of clarity in the definition of certain crimes (such as slander, libel and blasphemy), they are regularly at risk of being prosecuted for their reporting activities.


Decentralisation and civic participation

A reform programme for decentralisation, which has been supported through German development cooperation with the “Transformasi” project, has had a positive impact on transferring responsibilities to levels of government administration that are closer to the people. Gradually, towns, districts and provinces have thus taken over responsibility for numerous services, including health and education, infrastructure, environmental matters and public order. As a result, considerable new scope has opened up for public investment and for more civic participation at the local level, and that scope now needs to be used in an effective and transparent manner.

Regional conflicts

The regional conflicts and sometimes violent disputes of the past have become less acrimonious. The former Indonesian province of Timor-Leste, the occupation of which was accompanied by grave human rights violations, became independent in 2002. Since then, both countries have been working towards reconciliation and good neighbourly relations. The province of Aceh gained wide-ranging autonomy in 2002, ending decades of fighting. The situation has also stabilised in Central Sulawesi and on the Maluku Islands (Moluccas), where ethnic and religious tensions have largely been put to rest.

In West Papua, violent clashes between separatist groups and government security forces continue to take place. Many people from the provinces in the western part of the island of New Guinea do not identify ethnically and culturally with Indonesia, and are demanding more autonomy or even independence. They accuse the central government in Jakarta and members of other ethnic groups who have settled in Papua of discrimination and economic exploitation.