Sunday, April 13, 2008


1. Almost one decade after the democratic movement in May 1998, Indonesia has remained in the so-called transitional phase while continuing to grapple, albeit slowly, with many problems toward consolidation phase of democratization. At the state level, the three key institutions (executive, legislative and judiciary ones) have been revamped to meet the demands for accountability, transparency, and autonomy as well as reflect the basic principles of separation of power and checks and balances. At the society level, civil society (CS) and its organizations (CSOs) have played a significant role in the political reforms through its involvements in the public policy-making process and empowerment of citizens in defending and pursuing their basic rights as well.

2. Of the three key state institutions, it is the executive branch that has, by and large, been undergoing substantive institutional reforms, while the legislative and the judiciary branches have been considerably lagging behind. This situation is to a certain extent due to the very nature of transformation from authoritarianism to democratic system, in which the executive branch has become the main target of fundamental reform. Yet, it seems that in the Indonesian case, the reforms within the legislative and judiciary branches have been awfully so weak that they would have become a serious impediment to the whole process of democratic consolidation in the future. This uneven development of institutional reforms at the state level has, in my view, become the Achilles heels of Reformasi and one of the main sources of widespread public disillusionment and distrusts to it. This in turn would entail the deficit of democratization in the long term.

3. The weakness of institutional reforms within the legislative branch can be easily detected when it comes to the implementation of its three main functions: oversight, legislation, and budgetary. The failures of the DPR to become an effective oversight body vis-à-vis the government has become the bone of contention in the public discourse, so much so that the level of public trust to the DPR has steadily been declining in the past three years, reaching approximately 20%. In the field of legislation, the DPR has been widely accused as being utterly unproductive and incapable of meeting its own targets, as well as poor quality of its legislative products. The failure of enacting key legislations involving the basic rights of the people such as political party bill, freedom of information bill, criminal code bill, etc. in timely fashion has created public outcries and accusations toward the DPR’s capacity, notwithstanding the latter’s various explanations and rationalizations. The absence of real power in budgetary function has also put the DPR in a more or less defensive position when it comes to providing input to the budgetary process. The absence of “the power of the purse” in the legislative branch has been so pervasive that it has not even able to allocate its own internal budget and, instead, imposed by regulations from the government!

4. To be fair, the legislative body has attempted to launch its internal reforms amidst the existing less-than-ideal political atmosphere in the post-Reformasi era. Efforts have been taken, for instance, to reform its standing order (Tatib DPR) which is aimed to empower its members and lessening over-bureaucratization in decision-making processes. The 2005 DPR standing order has enabled the members of each commission to get fully involved in budget-making processes prior to its finalization in the Budget Commission, something that was not possible in the past. The leadership of the DPR has also launched the so-called “implementation team”, or Tim Kinerja DPR, whose tasks are, among others, to review the DPR performances and recommend the best-practices in the future. There has been an effort to improve the working visits (kunjungan kerja) of the members to their constituencies in order to maximize its accountability and preventing misuses of its budget. Also, there have been initiatives to respond the public demands of transparency and participations in terms of legislation and oversight processes. Last, but by no means the least, has been the role played by the DPR’s Board of Ethics (Badan Kehormatan) which increasingly caught the public eyes. Even though this internal body has not been supported by clear by-laws and solely relied on ethical code in the standing order as its legal foundation, nevertheless thebody has been making some crucial decisions which contribute to the improvement of DPR public image and its struggles against corruptions and abuses of power. It goes without saying that these on-going internal reforms would be more sustainable and effective when they are coupled with both public participations and controls.

5. The condition of Indonesian civil society (CS) and civil society organizations (CSOs) in the post-Reformasi era remains in flux and demands serious attention as well as scrutiny from the democratic stakeholders. On the one hand, there have been many positive developments in the Indonesian CS and CSOs, especially in their quantitative terms. On the other hand, care must be taken in expecting CS’s role in democratic reforms when it is abundantly clear that it has also been plagued by serious problems such as communalism, identity politics, and managerial incompetence. The opening caused by democratic transition has created the plethora of disillusions and depressions among members of society coming from the rising demand of expectations and hopes. The role of CS and its organizations should have been such that they are able to channel the over expectation into a more positive and reasonable one, while at the same time steering such feelings to push toward consolidation of democracy. However, during the past ten years, Indonesian CS and CSOs have not shown their leadership in time of crisis and, instead, some of them have turned out become key players in some horizontal conflicts that have deepened the feeling of malaise in the society. This is what I call “uncivil” civil society development in Indonesia which would have devastating consequences in the future of democratic reform.

6. Based on the above general assessment on Indonesia post-Reformasi condition, it is save to say that the proverbial “a half full or a half empty glass” probably the most appropriate picture of the current political development. Reformasi will remain a fragile enterprise in so far as the existing “transitional” phase has not yet been transformed into “consolidation of democracy” one. It demands full attention and efforts from the stakeholders of democracy to strengthen democratic institutions through various reforms at both the state and society levels. Chief among them will be institutional and capacity buildings of the legislative and judiciary bodies and improvement of CS and CSOs in terms of strengthening democratic values and social capital buildings.

7. I would suggest that the following programs are considered pivotal in the process of institutional and capacity building of the legislative bodies (DPR/DPRD/DPD):

a. Programs for institutional and capacity building of political parties, including management and human resource improvements
b. Programs for legislation capacity building among members of Parliaments (from the elementary to advanced levels)
c. Programs for budget capacity building for both political parties and members of the Parliaments
d. Technical assistances for legislation boards (district, provincial, and central Houses of reps) n the forms of infrastructure and human resource
e. Technical assistances within the legislative commissions, boards, and other institutions, such as experts in various fields, legal drafters, etc. Sustainable trainings programs would be of importance.
f. Reforms in key legislations which will enable the legislative bodies to function vis-à-vis the executive bodies.

8. At the CS and CSOs the following programs are suggested:

a. Social capital buildings among key CSOs such as religious organizations and institutions, NGOs, and professional groups
b. Management capacity building for CSOs which enables them to improve their advocacy to their community and society at large.
c. Strategic communication capacity building among CSOs, especially those that mainly deal with politically sensitive issues (e.g religious and cultural issues)
d. Human rights and citizenship related programs for CSOs, especially tied with legislations.
e. Capacity building program for CSOs in relation with legislation process and input-output delivery system.



  1. Please explain more details about political reform in Indonesia?