1st Edition

Politics in Contemporary Indonesia Institutional Change, Policy Challenges and Democratic Decline

By Ken M.P Setiawan, Dirk Tomsa Copyright 2022
    240 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    240 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In Politics in Contemporary Indonesia, Ken M.P. Setiawan and Dirk Tomsa analyse the most prominent political ideas, institutions, interests and issues that shape Indonesian politics today. Guided by the overarching question whether Indonesia still deserves its famous label as a ‘model Muslim democracy’, the book argues that the most serious threats to Indonesian democracy emanate from the fading appeal of democracy as a compelling narrative, the increasingly brazen capture of democratic institutions by predatory interests, and the narrowing public space for those who seek to defend the values of democracy. In so doing, the book answers the following key questions:

    • What are the dominant political narratives that underpin Indonesian politics?
    • How has Indonesia’s institutional framework evolved since the onset of democratisation in 1998?
    • How do competing political interests weaken or strengthen Indonesian democracy?
    • How does declining democracy affect Indonesia’s prospects for dealing with its main policy challenges?
    • How does Indonesia compare to other Muslim-majority states and to its regional neighbours?

    Up-to-date, comprehensive and written in an accessible style, this book will be of interest for both students and scholars of Indonesian politics, Asian Studies, Comparative Politics and International Relations.

    1. Trends and Features of Contemporary Indonesian Politics

    2. The Road to Democracy

    3. Political Institutions: Multiparty Presidentialism and Electoral Politics

    4. Local Government

    5. The Judiciary

    6. Islam and Politics

    7. Civil Society and the Media

    8. Human Development and Public Health

    9. Gender Equality and Sexual Politics

    10. Human Rights

    11. Environmental Challenges

    12. Foreign Policy

    13. Indonesian Democracy in Comparative Perspective


    Ken M.P. Setiawan is Lecturer in Indonesian and Asian Studies at the Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne, Australia. She is also Associate at the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society (CILIS) at the Melbourne Law School. Her research interests include globalisation and human rights, particularly focusing on the promotion of human rights at national and local levels. She has widely published on the politics of human rights in contemporary Indonesia, including Promoting Human Rights: National Human Rights Institutions in Indonesia and Malaysia (2013).

    Dirk Tomsa is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy at La Trobe University, Australia. His main research interests focus on Indonesian and comparative Southeast Asian politics, especially in the areas of democratisation and democratic decline, electoral and party politics, institutional change and environmental politics. His publications include Party Politics and Democratization in Indonesia: Golkar in the Post-Suharto Era (Routledge, 2008) as well as two co-edited volumes and numerous journal articles and book chapters on Indonesian and Southeast Asian politics.

    "Two of the foremost scholars of Indonesia, Ken Setiawan and Dirk Tomsa, have teamed up to write the most authoritative and comprehensive overview of that country’s dynamic democracy, and to explain the myriad forces that are responsible for that democracy’s resiliency and blemishes, in years. If one wants to grasp what has been happening since this large and strategic archipelagic nation-state started down its bumpy road to democracy nearly twenty-five years ago, and why careening off that road seems increasingly likely, start by reading this capably written, tightly organized, and exhaustively researched book."

    -Jamie S. Davidson, National University of Singapore

    "Politics in Contemporary Indonesia is a rich and highly readable assessment of current affairs in Indonesia, which offers a first-rate analysis of Indonesia’s democratic decline and the forces behind that. Rather than focusing only on election outcomes and party politics, attention is directed to a much wider set of political issues that are shaping Indonesia’s present and future, including human rights, social justice, gender, political Islam, and ecology. The COVID-19 pandemic receives special attention, not least as it has exacerbated many existing drawbacks. Setiawan and Tomsa offer long-term observers a highly plausible interpretation of contemporary Indonesia, but also succeed in making Indonesia more accessible to newcomers."

    -Antje Missbach, Bielefeld University, Germany

    "Politics in Contemporary Indonesia presents an excellent overview of Indonesian politics today. Written in an accessible style by two authors who know both the country and the scholarship superbly well, this volume takes readers through an even-handed and authoritative account of the major issues and themes driving contention in contemporary Indonesia. With chapters that provide deeply researched yet lightly written succinct overviews of key issues, and locates these within a broader framework of debates about the nature and depth of Indonesian democracy, this is a book that will provide readers with a strong grounding in Indonesian politics. Highly recommended for students of Indonesia, or for anyone seeking an introduction to, or update on, the politics of this fascinating country."

    -Edward Aspinall, Australian National University

    "This new book by Setiawan (Univ. of Melbourne, Australia) and Tomsa (La Trobe Univ., Australia) offers a thorough and helpful overview of current issues affecting Indonesian politics and government. Their narrative also provides some historical context and background to underline how Indonesian politics has changed (or not) through the post-Reformasi era. […] The authors pull together a range of topics that explain succinctly and clearly how Indonesia’s political system functions and is influenced, drawing from their deep knowledge of this field and the academic literature. […] an exceedingly helpful and worthwhile introduction to this subject for students and practitioners. Summing Up: Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; practitioners."

    -S. Maxim, University of California, Berkeley, CHOICE May 2023 Vol. 60 No. 9.

    “[This book] addresses the perennial question about the fate and future of Indonesian democracy, particularly after Reformasi in 1998. In thirteen chapters, the authors provide readers with an encyclopaedic overview of the many facets of contemporary Indonesian politics and society, including the electoral system, , local government, the role of Islam, civil society and the media, public healthy, gender inequality, human rights , environmental politics and foreign policy. […] Overall, this is an important book, particularly for newcomers  who want to understand contemporary Indonesia. The book provides clear insights into Indonesia’s struggles to keep its democracy alive in spite of the ineffective institutional set-up.”

    – Amalinda Savirani, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia, Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 44/3 (December 2022)

    "As a teacher of Indonesian language, culture, history, and politics at the undergraduate level, I have been searching for this book for about a decade. Or, more precisely, I have been searching for a text on contemporary Indonesia that offers both a comprehensive and accessible introduction to my students as well as something new and insightful to the more experienced researcher. It was a delight, then, to find this successful combination in Politics in Contemporary Indonesia: Institutional Change, Policy Challenges, and Democratic Decline. […] provide a much-needed and clearsighted appraisal of the state of Indonesia’s democracy in a way that firmly attends to the trends and topics of right now: deepening inequality, regressive politics, and political Islam, among so many urgent issues. The book is laid out very logically, with the first two chapters offering a general introduction and short history before quickly progressing to themed discussions. […] A particular strength of the book is its accessibility for readers new to the field. […] The engaging prose is easy to read, the chapters are concise and tightly written, and the authors avoid unnecessary jargon. The book will suit readers from all levels and disciplinary interests."

    – Annie Pohlman, University of Queensland, Australia, The Journal of Asian Studies 82:4, November 2023