Policy reforms that alter the formal rules should have the capacity to generate important consequences for political representation and for voting behavior. Indonesia’s political development during reformasi period has introduced major changes in many aspects of the nation’s democratic life starting from building a legitimate government, amending the constitution to lay the foundation for a democratic construction that has sufficient checks-and-balances, and introducing political practices aiming at building an effective and accountable government and trustworthy representation. The current political development has built a critical momentum for these changes to fully entrench democratic practices through the development of a competent independent electoral management body by taking advantage of the Law 22/2007. This momentum should be capitalized through seizing the opportunity provided by this improved legislative framework to build a credible and competent KPU.
Furthermore, any intervention framework such as reforms to the legal statues and party rules governing party eligibility and candidate nomination, the administrative process of electoral registration and voting facilities, the regulation of campaign finance and political broadcasting, and the process of election management shall be based on the assumption that the program must incrementally push for substantive democracy that would ensure such long term and sustainable support to all the actors in the field. This entails that intervention be made aligned with the agenda to not only encourage deeper political knowledge, understanding and disposition on the part of the citizens but also essential skills and competencies of political leaders and activists alike. It is assumed that through this kind of approach, initiatives to effect changes to the formal rules would be feasible. Surely, such a development takes time but careful and attentive process of shepherding shall guarantee that the reform does not become a mere flash in the pan phenomenon.
Institutionalizing Election Best Practices for Sustainable Democracy
Democratic practices can be found anywhere in this globe irrespective of the locations. It might be found in the highest peak of Himalayan mountain or at the shore of Vanuwatu. The conduct of the last two democratic elections of 1999 and 2004 had built national confidence that Indonesia has the capability to conduct regular free and fair elections with ambitious timetable for its comparatively massive electoral size. While this confidence is important, it should not be under estimated that the past two miraculous achievements were made possible because of strong motivation driven by the euphoria of reform. As voters started to face democratic reality and accumulate apathy this motivation will die down and needs to be substituted by sustainable organizational capacity to institutionalize the democratic practices. Formalization of the principles and procedures and building technical capacity in conducting regular practices should be systematically carried out. Permanent democratic institutions including the KPU, the parliament, and the whole governance machinery need to be strengthened. The period leading, during and after the upcoming election is an epoch where those practices could be institutionalized through yet another practice, but with more permanent processes and less ad-hoc approaches.
Similarly, institutionalization of international election best practices shall provide additional input to the process of instilling professionalism and accountability of electoral management. Combined with local election best practices, there would be substantial framework to achieve sustainable democracy in Indonesia.
Building Long Term Political Education Capacity
Experiences around the world suggest that democracy and political education cannot be achieved only by conducting few regular elections. However, it is clear that election is a real opportunity for an effective political education. Election events which demonstrate direct interaction between electorate and the elected would serve as a powerful civic education tool. The 1999 and 2004 elections have been viewed by many as democratic festivities, but had not been used as a means of educating the public to critically look at the good and bad lessons of democracy. Codifying the experiences from the election as large as Indonesia’s will provide important teaching not only for the Indonesian, but also for the inspired citizens in other emerging democracies.
By building long term political education capacity, it is assumed that the public would become aware of their important position in the political process. The public would also understand that their active participation in the political process will ensure the sustainability of democracy in Indonesia.