Do New Democracies Support Democracy? Indonesia Finds a New Voice

Issue Date October 2011
Volume 22
Issue 4
Page Numbers 110-123
file Print
arrow-down-thin Download from Project MUSE
external View Citation

Read the full essay here.

Throughout the 1990s, resisting international pressures to democratise had been one of the dominant features of Indonesia’s foreign policy. Together with Singapore, Malaysia, and China, Indonesia strongly resisted democracy-promotion agenda in foreign policies of Western countries, arguing that democracy was unsuitable for Asian societies. That position came to an end with the collapse of authoritarian rule in 1998. As the dust of domestic turmoil attendant of transition began to settle, Indonesia has begun to incorporate its democratic identity into foreign policy. Indonesia’s desire to establish its credential as a regional proponent of democracy in Southeast Asia, however, is still sought within the limits imposed by the precarious nature of Indonesia’s own democracy and the reality of regional politics. It also still registers a gap between its progressive outlook at regional level and conservative attitude in the international arena. Consequently, democracy can hardly function beyond an instrument to construct a new international identity for post-authoritarian Indonesia. In that context, the inclusion of democracy agenda in Indonesia’s foreign policy is still best described as an exercise in democracy-projection rather than democracy-promotion.

About the Author

Rizal Sukma is executive director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta, and a member of the Board of Governors of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, the implementing agency for the Bali Democracy Forum. His books include Islam in Indonesia’s Foreign Policy (2003).

View all work by Rizal Sukma