Politics Indonesia | 08 August 2023

Indonesia: Former general’s worrying comparison

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As New Mandala reported on 20 July 2023, Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto compared the Indonesian government with a football team, where everyone gathers behind the captain.

World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller explains: “In itself, this comparison is seemingly harmless. However, if seen in Prabowo’s context of being a frontrunner for the 2024 elections and in having claimed that after elections, he would invite defeated opponents to join his government (just as President Jokowi did with him), this does not bode well for the development of democracy in the country nor for its ethnic and religious minorities. If there is no government opposition, all that is left to highlight policy shortcomings is civil society. And even though civil society in Indonesia is comparatively strong, the same does not hold true when it comes to religious issues. If former General Prabowo were to win the 2024 election, the armed forces would be likely to gain a greater level of independence and influence on politics than before (IPAC, 17 August 2023).  Authoritarianism and polarization in Indonesian politics look like they are here to stay.”

Thomas Muller adds: “Another factor not to be underestimated in the elections is what one observer termed the “invisible Islamism” (East Asia Forum, 22 July 2023). The Indonesian government has been quite successful in banning Islamist organizations and parties, probably the most prominent example being the FPI. However, banning does not mean Islamists and their attitudes are simply disappearing. Instead, they rebrand, are pushed underground and continue to influence politics and elections, not least in areas of Central and East Java considered strongholds of Nahdlatul Ulama.”


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