Editorial: Our Democracy, Like Jokowi, Needs Work

JANUARY 21, 2015

In the wake of political uncertainty sewn by President Joko Widodo’s series of policy blunders, Indonesians finally had reason for relief on Tuesday.

After months of turmoil and public pressure, the House of Representatives (DPR) approved a law restoring the Indonesian public’s right to vote for their governors, mayors and district chiefs, repealing legislation enacted last October that disenfranchised the electorate and gave provincial legislative councils’ (DPRD) party patronage systems the power to pick local leaders.

This is a victory for the Indonesian people, whose overwhelming support for restoring regional elections — upward of 86 percent, according to polls — demonstrated that, at heart, the nation’s democratic spirit is alive and well, even if its institutional processes, and the politicians entrusted to run them, need work.

Democracy requires constant effort to maintain. We each bear responsibility for vigilant, vigorous support of the essential institutions upon which all democratic processes rely: elections and a free press.

The ordeal we endured to affirm our right as Indonesians to directly decide our local leaders should be remembered at the ballot box.

Do not forget it was Yudhoyono’s administration that originally proposed the legislation that eliminated regional elections; his dereliction as president — a tepid too-little, too-late flip-flop statement while on a final overseas grandstanding jaunt — allowed it to pass the House. Joko has no reason to be proud, either. His Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the parties that support his administration all initially sought to reject an emergency measure that would have restored elections sooner.

This is the people’s victory. Neither Joko nor his predecessor can claim credit. We do hope they begin making better decisions before the next election.