The country's democracy is facing a crisis amid endemic corruption and rising intolerance, according to the results of a new survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), released in Jakarta on Monday (24/09). (JG Photo/Sheany)

Corruption, Intolerance Threaten Indonesia's Democracy


SEPTEMBER 26, 2018

Jakarta. Indonesia's democracy is facing a crisis amid endemic corruption and rising intolerance, according to the result of a new survey, released this week.

The survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), conducted across the country in August, focused on the public's perception of democracy, corruption and intolerance. The LSI interviewed 1,520 respondents who were eligible to vote at the time of survey, and found that an overwhelming majority supports democracy.

More than 70 percent of respondents indicated that they were satisfied with democratic progress in the country, while 83 percent said they consider democracy as the best system of governance, compared with 76 percent last year.

Although most Indonesians said they were against corruption, a handful said it was acceptable. According to the survey, 27 percent of Indonesians consider gratuities as normal, while 37 percent did not have a problem with collusion or nepotism.

"Why has our democracy stagnated? Despite the support for democracy among voters, there's also an attitude of acceptance of corruption … [they say] yes to democracy and yes to corruption – that's why our democracy cannot progress," LSI senior researcher Burhanuddin Muhtadi, said during the release of the report in Jakarta on Monday (24/09).

The LSI further found that political intolerance increased between 2016 and 2018 among Indonesian Muslims, who make up 87 percent of the country's population of around 260 million.

The institute measured political intolerance by evaluating Muslim respondents' support for non-Muslim candidates running for office. Across various leadership positions – from president and deputy president to governor and mayor – Muslims said they are opposed to having non-Muslims in such positions.

Cultural Aspect of Corruption

Indonesia Corruption Watch coordinator Adnan Topan Husodo said systemic corruption in the country often results in anti-corruption activists becoming victims.

He cited the case involving senior Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan, who was the victim of a brutal acid attack in April 2017, which resulted in him losing part of his sight. Despite an ongoing police investigation, the case remains unsolved more than a year after the incident.

"Corruption in Indonesia is a social trap. Those who oppose the practice often become victims themselves," Adnan said.

He added that Novel's case illustrates a powerful disincentive for people who want to fight against corruption.

He also noted that nearly 2,500 civil servants in the country have remained in their positions even after the courts had found them guilty of corruption. Adnan added that were even promoted.

"The current system has yet to create disincentives for corruptors. We need to think of ways to tackle this," he said.

Yenny Wahid, executive director of the Wahid Foundation, said the problem of corruption in Indonesia is rooted deeply in a culture of patronage.

She explained that the relationship between officials and members of the public extends beyond politics, and that it is often more personal, which opens the door for corruption.

"There's [also] a huge gap between the authorities and the people, and we have to make sure that our attitudes are not limited to simply respecting these officials because of their positions, but also evaluating the quality of the people in power," Yenny said.

LSI researcher Burhanuddin echoed this sentiment, saying that the cultural aspect poses a problem in the eradication of corruption in the country.

"This cultural aspect is something we must be able to distinguish, one from the other. If we don't do this, we will always face the issue of people thinking of corrupt practices as 'gift giving,' instead of bribery," he said.