The Jakarta Post
A study has indicated that democracy in the country’s capital has recovered since a polarizing gubernatorial election two years ago.
In the latest release of the Indonesian Democracy Index (IDI), Statistics Indonesia (BPS) has revealed that Jakarta is the most democratic among 34 provinces with a score of 84.73.
According to the report, the number of democratic events in each province relates directly to its democracy rating.
The report noted that, before 2016, Jakarta consistently achieved a “good” democracy ranking and was always at the top. However, its democracy index dropped drastically from “good” to “bad”, with only 70.85 points in 2016 amid campaigns for the 2017 gubernatorial election.
The report stated that, from 2016 to 2017, there was a heavy use of identity politics in the lead-up to the 2017 election, which led to violations of election rules and democratic principles.
“A good democracy can be reversed easily just because of certain political events. For example, Jakarta was disturbed by widespread [campaign violations] from 2016 to 2017,” the report stated.
The 2017 gubernatorial election saw then-governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama seeking reelection. He was challenged by former education minister Anies Baswedan and former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s son Agus Harimurti.
Ahok’s candidacy was hobbled by a criminal trial in which he was accused of blasphemy against Islam during a campaign appearance in September 2016. He was hit by a string of smear campaigns by conservative Muslim groups, grouped under the “212”, that had called for his prosecution.
BPS social security statistics director Harmawanti Marhaeni said democracy in Jakarta improved quickly after the 2016 gubernatorial election. The ranking for civil liberties rose 6.62 points to 87.73, political rights rose 12.32 points to 80.86 and democratic institutions rose 23.93 points to 87.12.
“According to the data, civil liberties returned to the level of 2015,” she said on Thursday.
However, the report questioned how permanent the divisions were in society after the sharp decline in the index in 2016.
Prior to and during the election, Jakarta was hit with anti-Chinese and anti-Christian sentiment. Banners with text that threatened to refuse to carry out Islamic burial rituals for deceased Muslims who supported Ahok, a Chinese-Indonesian and Christian, were put up in parts of the capital.
Ahead of the 2019 presidential election, in which President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, a close ally of Ahok, is seeking reelection, the 212 movement is making its comeback.
In a large rally that shows the enduring presence of the Islamists in politics, hundreds of thousands of conservative Muslims flocked to the National Monument (Monas) on Dec. 2 to commemorate the second anniversary of the 2016 anti-Ahok rally.
Anies, now Jakarta’s governor, said the group’s revival showed the maturity of democracy. Therefore, he added, this should be an example for other provinces. “If the capital city has matured democratically in carrying out basic rights, this can be spread to all over the country,” he said.
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2017 referred to Indonesia as a flawed democracy. It fell from 48th place to 68th in the index.
In Freedom in the World 2018, the latest edition of an annual report released by Freedom House on political rights and civil liberties, Indonesia’s score in political pluralism and participation declined from 3 to 2 because of the blasphemy case against Ahok and restrictions on unrecognized religious minorities’ access to identification documents. (ggq)
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Dec. 14, 2018, with the title "Jakarta recovers from divisive election: BPS".