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Decentralization and Democratization in Indonesia

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Chapter Six

Lessons and Implications

The changes in Indonesia have been incremental...We still have the New Order, or most of it. Anyway, the corrosive parts are still reigning in. We have a new administration but the New Order keeps coming back in various ways.

Dwight T. King[1]

It is a paradox that, in an era when democracy seems to have emerged as the single most acceptable form of political organization, more and more people in both mature and young democracies are disengaging from the political process.

Knight, Chigudu & Tandon (2002)

…a breakdown of an authoritarian regime may be reversed…even if democracy is established, it need not be consolidated. Under certain conditions, democratic institutions may systematically generate outcomes that cause some politically important forces to opt for authoritarianism. Hence, consolidated democracy is only one among the possible outcomes of breakdown of authoritarian regimes.

Pzeworski (1991: 51)


The discussion in previous chapters provides a foundation for important theoretical insights regarding the nature and the significance of decentralization in Indonesia, as well as its relation to democratization in the regions. I have emphasized how decentralization practices in the regions promote popular participation in local political processes beyond electoral participation.

By and large, the experiences of Bandung District and City of Cirebon in implementing decentralization between 1945 and 2006 lend support to the argument that decentralization does not necessarily lead to the growth of local democracy within which local ordinary people are able to exert their power to significantly influence local decision-making process. Although promoting democracy has become one of the stated goals of several decentralization laws, their enforcement in both regions has not promoted meaningful inclusion of local ordinary people in local political processes beyond electoral participation. In fact, it has been the weakest point of decentralization practices in both regions. Overall, the two case studies share a similar theme, namely that power remains actually concentrated in the hands of local elites and hence, local communities are constantly marginalized. Against this backdrop, in this chapter, I will examine a number of factors which have circumscribed the democratic potential of the decentralization program in Indonesia.

Based on the experiences of a variety of countries, some theorists suggest that successful decentralization policies are contingent upon certain individual or collective prerequisites. These include: a high degree of central state capacity, a well developed civil society, strong political will among national as well as local political elites, strong social support, a long experience of democracy, a well-established multi-party system, strong enabling legal frameworks, and a culture of accountability, etc (Rondinelli, McCullough & Johnson 1989: 77-78; Crook & Manor 1995: 327; Ardaya & Thevoz 2001: 220; Heller 2001: 138-139). Regarding this assertion, analysts also emphasize that the extent to which these conditions work varies across countries. This means that some conditions work relatively well in certain countries, but in others they do not effectively facilitate the stated goals of decentralization policies (Kulipossa 2004: 771). In addition, Smoke (2003: 12) and Kulipossa (2004: 772) also draw attention to the fact that there are cases where decentralization can achieve its potential benefits in the absence of those conditions, as well as cases where most of those prerequisites are in place, but decentralization has been undermined.

Against the above line of thought, I would argue here that to a certain extent, the unfulfilled democratic potential of decentralization practices in Bandung and Cirebon can also be associated with the absence of some of the above favourable conditions. These include weak political will among both national and local political authorities, the absence of a vibrant civil society, and the lack of an attentive public. Needless to say, these factors vary across time and regimes. Above all, the absence of these favourable conditions for fulfilling the democratic potential of decentralization appears to result from three aspects: first, all along, decentralization in Indonesia has been perceived and embraced by Indonesian political elites mainly as a matter of political strategy; second, the long-standing authoritarian system of government; and third, the primacy of pragmatic over political decentralization approach, both normatively and empirically.

Decentralization in Indonesia: a matter of regime's political strategy?

Among the most important factors which determines the design and the actual practices of decentralization and in turn, its expected consequences (e.g., improving public service delivery, maintaining national integration and promoting local democracy) is the motivation of key actors in adopting the policy in the first place (Selee & Tulchin 2004). The experiences of many developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, for instance, attest that the motives of politicians that embrace decentralization policies are not necessarily as virtuous as those who design them. In fact, Smoke and Gomez (2006 : 351; see also, for example, Eaton 2001a; Shah & Thompson 2004: 3-4) observe that despite the efficiency and good governance rhetoric surrounding decentralization, the underlying impetus has been inherently political, meaning that the adoption of decentralization has been linked to central governments' desire to accomplish their own particular political interests. The factors underlying political interest are country and regime specific. They include, for instance, shoring up their legitimacy in the eyes of citizens usually amidst national political crisis, competition with rival political parties for popular support, pressure from subnational governments for more powers, and opportunity for a ruling party to consolidate power (Selee & Tulchin 2004: 299-302; Smoke & Gomez 2006 : 351). Many observers believe that these kinds of political motives have partly accounted for the failure of decentralization practices in many developing countries to deliver its democratic potential (Eaton 2001a; Friedman & Kihato 2004; Oxhorn 2004).

Indonesia's decentralization experience is not an exception to the above phenomenon. Although promoting democratization has been one of the stated goals of Indonesia's decentralization programs, there has been significant gap between rhetoric and reality. The continuous marginalization of local people from local political processes has been partly rooted in the ‘undemocratic' political motives of both national and local political elites in adopting and implementing decentralization policy. As explained in Chapter Three, decentralization in Indonesia has never been constructed in a political vacuum. Hence, I would argue that the degree, pattern and process of decentralization has been strongly influenced by, borrowing Montero and Samuels' term (2004: 5), political determinants, i.e., regime responses to changing conditions and incentives within the context of rapid political and economic changes.

During the revolution era, decentralization policies recognized the principle of extensive autonomy in all regions of the newly independent Republic. However, such policies were actually constructed by national political elites as a means of establishing and maintaining national authority over many already operating local governments in those regions previously occupied by the colonial government. The polices were also constructed to fulfill other political ends, namely to gain international recognition, as contained in both Law No. 1 of 1945 and No. 22 of 1948 in the face of Dutch accusations that Indonesia was a puppet state of the Japanese. Thus, despite official claims that decentralization was embraced as an indispensable strategy in materializing a democratic system due to the country's size and diverse characteristics, the embrace of the policy during this period was not genuinely related to the intention of developing meaningful democratic system within the country since those two basic laws were not followed by any clear operational directions whatsoever on how a democratic system of government would be crafted on the ground. This claim is underscored by the fact that there was no significant alteration in terms of local political processes in Bandung, Cirebon or other regions in the country. As Maryanov (1958: 9) also observed,

Many of the institutions and practices adopted or utilized by independent Indonesia have been reflections of those established by the Netherlands East Indies…alterations in governmental structure turned out to be minor…patterns of administrative behavior remained rooted in the Dutch traditional procedures.

Accordingly, the experiences of both Bandung and Cirebon during post-independence until mid 1950s revealed that, except for the establishment of local government structures, the enforcement of Law No. 1 of 1945 and No. 22 of 1948 allowed neither effective decentralization nor democratization in the regions. Needless to say, the political situation during revolutionary era also contributed to the limited enforcement of the policies in the regions.

By the same token, there were three decisive political factors which led national political elites to adopt advanced decentralization policy as contained in Law No. 1 of 1957 which “greatly increased the power of elected legislative councils in the provinces, regencies, and municipalities” and set for wider regional authority vis-à-vis the central government (Feith 1962: 552). These factors were, first, a kind of political promise by the government of Republic of Indonesia to the former constituent states of the Republic of the United States of Indonesia―a federal structure created by the Dutch― when they voluntarily decided to join the Republic of Indonesia to establish the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. Second, the electoral calculations of various political parties in the Constituent Assembly to have wider mass bases in the regions and to play more influential roles in regional politics. And third, forestalling regional rebellions rooted in growing regional dissatisfaction concerning the central government's unfulfilled promises to carry out development. This was intertwined with other issues such as ethnic tension, economic imbalance and political rivalry between politicians in Java and the Outer Islands. Accordingly, most of the advanced provisions within Law No. 1 were considered to be immediate responses to the above political factors, such as the recognition of the principle of extensive autonomy which was applied based on the capacity of respective local governments and the election of heads of regions by the DPRDs. In addition, the direct election of members of the DPRD and the issuance of Indonesia's first Fiscal Balance Law within the same year were also seen as inseparable efforts by national political elites to respond to those political factors.

In turn, however, similar to its predecessors, such pragmatic and short term political calculations by national political elites prevented decentralization achieving its idealized outcomes. As Bandung and Cirebon's experiences attest, until late 1950s, there was relatively little effective power actually decentralized. In addition, one might conclude that with the introduction of direct election of DPRD members and the election of head of region by the DPRD, local democracy was being crafted on the ground. However, it was not accompanied by channels of popular participation beyond the election. Recapping the above political motives in adopting such advances provisions in Law No. 1, neither central government policy makers nor democratically elected local governments in either case study considered this issue as among their political goals. Accordingly, the two case studies demonstrate that the dynamic of political parties and decentralization practices in Bandung and Cirebon clearly did not make local political process more open to participation by local people.

Decentralization practices during the Sukarno and Suharto eras obviously confirm the argument that decentralization can be applied within authoritarian regime (Eaton 2001a: 3; Montero & Samuels 2004: 10). These cases, however, it was by no means aimed at achieving the various virtues routinely discussed by democratization theorists, but rather at tightening their control over the apparatus of local government at all levels in order to facilitate an authoritarian system. This was particularly fulfilled by making both subnational executives and legislatures appointed and hence, accountable to the national authorities. Thus, these local apparatus were nothing but the instruments of central government with their main function representing the central government's interests in the regions.

Yet again, such decentralization was not made in a political vacuum. Prior to the enforcement of Presidential Edict No. 6 of 1959 concerning Regional Government and Presidential Edict No. 5 of 1960 regarding the Gotong Royong Regional Representative Council and Regional Secretariat (Sekretaris Daerah), Indonesia was hit by escalating political turbulence due to the outbreak of rebellions in Sumatra and Sulawesi, the repeated collapse of governing coalitions at the national level in addition to the failure of the Constituent Assembly to make a replacement for the Provisional 1950 Constitution. In turn, these aspects triggered the issuance of a wave of government regulations by Sukarno intended to overhaul the system of government based on his personal concept of Guided Democracy―”a democracy with a leadership”(van der Kroef 1957: 115). This concept was believed to be an alternative to troublesome “Western concepts of parliamentary democracy” which had supposedly led to the above political turbulence due to the weakness of government authority and the vehemence of political opposition (van der Kroef 1957: 113). Thus, the new arrangements in local governance were specifically aimed at facilitating Sukarno's own concept of Guided Democracy, which required a total subservience of local governments to central government policies. Sukarno himself was closely involved in setting in place local government institutions, such as heads of regions and local councils.

Suharto did not loosen up central control when he took over from Sukarno following the abortive conspiracy by left-wing officers in 1965 until his demise in 1998 (Malley 1999: 75). In fact, severe economic and political crisis inherited from the previous regime contributed to the deepening of authoritarianism that fostered a highly centralized system of government. Suharto's regime believed that this mode of government could retain political and economic stability as its ultimate basis for overcoming the crisis. Another important determinant of Suharto's centralistic policy towards local government system was the need to establish and consolidate an effective government administration over the vast and diverse country (MacAndrews 1986: 27-30). In turn, these variables contributed to the centralistic nature of New Order's ‘decentralization' law¾Law No. 5 of 1974 concerning The Basic Principle of Government in the Regional Government through which “the regions had neither influence over national government policies nor the power to control their own affairs” (Aspinall & Fealy 2003: 2). In essence, throughout Suharto's regime, local governments were mainly as implementers of various policies constructed and financially supported by the central government.

Thus, both the Sukarno and Suharto regime indeed continued to adopt ‘decentralization' policies as represented by the existence of the above law and regulations. However, all were intended to facilitate central government control and greater penetration of society in order to repress vehemence political opposition so that all central government policies and interests would be efficiently implemented down to the lowest level of governments without any resistance. Needless to say, such a mode of ‘decentralization' provided no space for citizen participation.

Many Indonesians had great hopes that the so-called ‘Big Bang' approach to decentralization launched in 2001 would at last bring into reality the various potential benefits of the policy, including democratic local governance. However, various studies (e.g., Anggraini 2007; The Asia Foundation, 2002a; The Asia Foundation, 2002b; Wardana 2007) including two case studies discussed in previous chapters confirm that the decentralization practices have gone without meaningful opening up institutional spaces for greater citizen participation, even though, promoting local democratic governance was among the stated goals of the ‘Big Bang' approach.

Yet again, a key problem was that realizing democratic potential was not among the main goals of the national political elites when they adopted the policy. Rather, as explained in Chapter Three, the ‘Big Bang' policy was motivated by a number of crucial political determinants that had little to do with developing local democracy or even with the neo-liberal agenda of achieving a more effective and efficient public service. These included forestalling national disintegration amidst the emergence of separatist movements and the vocal demands for more autonomy from some resource-rich regions (Sukma 2003: 65; Hidayat & Antlov 2004: 271; Hofman & Kaiser 2004: 17) ; restoring the legitimacy of the state as well as national elites following the collapse of Suharto's regime, severe economic crisis, and the loss of East Timor (Smoke & Gomez 2006 : 353); transferring financial burdens from the center to the regions amidst dramatic decline of central government's financial capacity following the economic crisis of 1997-1999 (Hidayat & Antlov 2004: 271-272); and, no less important, electoral calculus of Habibie's to garner the support of the regions prior to the presidential elections (Hofman & Kaiser 2004: 17). It was for these strategic reasons, few of which were related to democracy, that the government was willing to embrace a radical approach to decentralization. Further consequence, as attested in Bandung District and City of Cirebon cases, neither clear and firm central government's policies or programs, nor local governance meaningfully accommodated the rhetoric of promoting democratization into reality. Although it was often argued that local democracy was strengthened through the significant empowerment of DPRD vis-à-vis head of region (Rasyid 2003), this mechanism of political representation in fact could not deliver effective accomplishment of what Fung and Wright (2003: 3) called,

the central ideas of democratic politics: facilitating active political involvement of the citizenry, forging political consensus through dialogue, devising and implementing public policies that ground a productive economy and healthy society, and, in more radical egalitarian versions of the democratic ideal, assuring that all citizens benefit from the nation's wealth.

The enforcement of Indonesia's latest decentralization law―Law No. 32 of 2004―did not make local political processes more inclusive either, since the law was not motivated by the intention to so. On the surface, it might appear that the formulation of the law was driven by the intention of the Megawati administration to curb the emergence of various abuses of Law No. 22 of 1999, such as rampant corruption and blatant money politics, ethnic parochialism, and the proliferation of excessive taxes which had led to a high cost economy to name some of the most worrying signs. Many perceived that all of these problems were rooted in imperfect laws and the lack of a clearly designed plan (Turner et al. 2003; Legowo 2003; Legowo & Djadijono n.d).

More compelling is the argument that the attempt was a straightforward act of re-centralization. Such an act is particularly rooted in the nature of decentralization itself, which is not merely as an administrative business, but rather it involves the distributional struggles between national and subnational elites regarding control over local resources (Slater & Watson 1989: 511; Montero 2001: 44-45; Hadiz 2003b: 123). Accordingly, meaningful decentralization always faces enormous political obstacles and can be subjected to serious setbacks. One of the salient challenges is the preference of national elites to slow down the process of decentralization and to reinforce their attempts to control it. As Eaton (2001b: 102) suggests, “national politicians can and do continue to use their legislative authority to modify the initial decision to decentralize”. Thus, for national politicians, “decentralization is neither inevitable nor irreversible” (Eaton 2001b: 101). I would suggest that the enforcement of the latest Indonesia's decentralization law―Law No. 32 of 2004―perfectly supports this line of argument. This contention is further strengthened by the fact that Law No. 32 restores and strengthens the province and the Ministry of Home Affairs' positions in regional affairs at the expense of district governments' authority (Eko 2005: 27-29; Ryaas Rashid as cited in Myala 2005).

The only new provision within Law No. 32 of 2004 embraced by many as a significant leap in decentralization and local democratization efforts regarded the direct election of heads of regions However, as Fung and Wright argues (2003: 3), the election of both legislative and executive offices are not sufficient to accommodate the influence of local ordinary people on local political processes beyond the election. As the experiences of Bandung and Cirebon attest, there has not been any significant alteration in terms of developing inclusive local political process in the aftermath of the head of region elections. It must be admitted that the promulgation of Local Regulation on Transparency and Participation in Bandung District in 2004 was actually a progressive step in institutionalizing active political involvement of local people. However, it has not been effectively implemented yet. Lack of political will on the part of local to consistently implement the regulation has ensured that it has had only rhetorical value. The claim that popular participation has been channeled through the annual development planning process is specious, since the process is actually still strongly dominated by local government officers.

New arrangements in local governance based on Law No. 32 have in fact significantly reduced the power of DPRDs vis-à-vis heads of regions, since the former no longer have the power to elect and to hold the latter accountable, as regulated in the previous decentralization law. The head of region is now accountable to the central authorities with the president at the apex of the hierarchy. Thus, from a representative democracy point of view, there has been a significant retreat as well.

Thus, the lesson seems to be that decentralization in Indonesia has been pursued mainly as a political strategy to fulfill certain political ends, particularly those of national elites within the context of political and economic crisis. Deepening democracy has never been the driving force behind decentralization reform. It is therefore no surprise that we find a lack of political will to realize the democratic potential of decentralization policies at any stage of Indonesia's history. Smoke (2003: 12) points out that among the most ubiquitous claims regarding impediments to decentralization's success is the lack of strong political will from various stakeholders involved in the process. Theorists do not all mean the same thing when they talk about ‘political will'. For some theorists, strong political will can be seen from the existence of constitutional or legal instruments made by political elites, both national and local (Rondinelli, McCullough & Johnson 1989: 77-78; Smoke 2003: 12). Nevertheless, since many cases also show that decentralization policies cannot attain their intended goals,[2] theorists also emphasize that constitutional and legal instruments are not sufficient to ensure workable decentralization policies. As Isaac (2001: 9) firmly argues,

Fundamental reforms cannot be merely legislated. Legislation remains empty phrases unless powerful movements oversee their implementation. Legislation is necessary but not sufficient for decentralization.

Accordingly, as Rondinelli (1983: 198-200) highlights, political will must also be measured from the actual realization of those normative arrangements particularly by central political authorities transferring planning, decision-making and managerial authority to lower levels of governments, and also by local political authorities sharing their authority with local citizens through opening up effective channels for political participation so that local citizens, especially the poor and marginalized ones, are able to express their needs and demands and to press claims or national and local development resources. Thus, this dimension of political will is also essential, since in many cases, normative arrangements of decentralization are often used to facilitate political aims that have little to do with devolving power to lower level of governments and utilizing this power to effectively fulfill local people's needs and demands. As Crook (2003: 85-86) stresses, in some African countries the real goal is often to consolidate power through political parties and local elites, or to deliberately neutralize local ethnic challenges through fragmenting “potential local power bases into smaller, weaker, politically insignificant units”.

Based on the above line of thought, the lack of political will in pursuing the democratic potential of Indonesia's decentralization can be viewed from different perspectives. Normatively, even though the embrace of the policy may initially be claimed to be an indispensable strategy to develop a democratic system of government, its subsequent adoption within constitutions and some existing decentralization laws as well as their operational regulations in the regions so far has never been clear, firm, and consistent. Neither constitutions nor basic legislation and its subsequent operational regulations explicitly note that promoting local democracy is among the intended goals of decentralization programs. During the New Order era, Development Planning (Perencanaan Pembangunan), which was regulated within the Ministry of Home Affairs Regulation of 1982 (Permendagri No. 9/1982), was claimed to be adopting a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches. Empirically, however, as proven in the experiences of Bandung District and City of Cirebon, the planning process was actually highly centralized and practically excluded public participation. The local governments' development planning processes were nothing but breaking down the centrally planned parameters.

One might find that this was not the case during the post-Suharto era, particularly with regard to Law No.22 of 1999 and Law No. 32 of 2004. Indeed, some argue that Law No. 22 in particular, was intended to promote local democracy and participation, as evident in its preamble: “in the implementation of Regional Autonomy is deemed to be necessary to emphasize more the principles of democracy, public participation, equal distribution and fairness, and considering the potential and regional diversity” (Turner et al. 2003: 23; see also, Jaya & Dick 2001: 216). However, it appears that further details on how local democracy would be implemented on the ground were actually ill-defined.

The national government in fact issued a separate regulation, i.e. Government Regulation No. 68 of 1999 regarding public participation in the governmental process.[3] From the title of the regulation, one might easily assume that it was regarding people's involvement in the government's policy-making process. But, it was actually not. The regulation was actually more about people's rights rather than facilitating popular participation. Four rights were mentioned: the right to obtain and give information regarding governmental process; the right to get fair service from the government; the right to give advice to the government policies; and the right to legal protection (perlindungan hukum).[4] Thus, the Government Regulation did not specifically mention that popular participation would be the essential component of the government policy-making process. In addition, knowing that popular participation was framed in terms of rights, it means that it was set on voluntary basis. I believe that such setting provided weak encouragement for the public to be engaged in governmental process.

In the case of Law No. 32, its prologue reads,

…local government, which manages and oversees its own governmental affairs based on the principles of decentralization and medebewind (co-operating administration) , is directed towards boosting people welfare through service improvement, empowerment, and popular participation, as well as improving regional competitiveness by taking into account the principles of democracy, equal distribution, fairness, specialness (keistimewaan), and specific characteristics (kekhususan) of a region within the system of Unitary State of Republic of Indonesia.

From the above prologue, there would appear to be no significant difference between Law No. 22 and Law No. 32. However, one might argue that central government, as the main architect of the law, showed stronger political will to uphold local democracy in Law No. 32 rather than its predecessor, based on two novel articles within the law, i.e. Article 56 (1) regarding the direct election of head and deputy head of local government and Article 139 (1) which stated that “Local community has the right to provide input verbally or in writing for the preparation of or during the deliberation of a proposed bill.” Direct election of head and deputy head of local government is undeniably desirable since, as Peterson (1997: 14) argues, indirect elections have “tended to perpetuate the strength of political insiders, who are often more accountable to their party hierarchy than to the public at large”. Nevertheless, further analysis of other articles reveals that direct election of head and deputy head of local government actually lacked democratic orientation in three aspects: first, the election process was practically dominated by political parties' maneuvers, especially during the selection of the candidates for head and deputy head of local government, which is prone to power abuse by ‘selling' the office to the highest bidder; second, there was strong intervention from national political party boards in determining the candidates; and third, the election gave no opportunity for independent candidates (Legowo & Djadijono n.d). Hence, in the end, local communities have become the last component in the whole series of the election process. In other words, the novel provisions regarding the direct election of head and deputy head of local government only left the local community marginalized.

More importantly, direct election is insufficient for developing strong local democracy since “elections occur infrequently and allow for only limited citizen input or feedback regarding specific local concerns or policy options” (Posner 2004: 57). Strong local democracy, Posner argues, needs to be backed up by active political participation of local constituencies beyond the mere act of voting.

With regard to Article 139 (1), it appears that popular participation was provided for on a voluntarily basis. What I am pointing out here is that the article indicates that popular participation in local policy making process was not an essential factor in the process. This point is underlined by the fact that there were no other provisions within Law No. 32 which obligated local government institutions to engage the local community meaningfully in the process.

In 2004, the central government promulgated separated law regarding the formulation of legislations, namely Law No. 10 of 2004. Needless to say, the law brought about no significant alteration in terms of developing an inclusive policy-making process. The legislative process was actually dominated by executive and legislative body, both at national as well as local. There was no clear and firm statement on how both institutions might engage with the community members. There was only one article which mentioned popular participation. Oddly enough, this particular article was exactly the same as the Article 139 (1) of Law No. 32 of 2004.

In short, based on the above analysis, the claim that central government had stronger political will to promote local democracy within Law No. 32 was unjustified. In turn, this has contributed to the lack of political will on the part of local governments to pursue inclusive local government as indicated by the absence of local regulations regarding this matter in many local governments, including City of Cirebon (Legowo & Djadijono n.d: 20-21).

A different phenomenon, however, occurred in Bandung District. In 2004, the DPRD of Bandung District initiated a local regulation (Perda No. 6 of 2004) regarding transparency and participation in the implementation of governmental affairs. It must be admitted that the essence of the Perda was far more advanced than PP No. 68/1999 and UU No. 10 of 2004 in a number of aspects. The preamble (point a) explicitly indicated,

Transparency and participation are significant aspects in developing and improving a democratic and responsive system of government, hence it must involve community elements in the process of policy-making, implementation and evaluation in order to achieve governmental processes that are trustworthy, clean and authoritative.

Participation was defined as “public involvement, directly or indirectly contributing thoughts and opinions in every public policy-making process in order to make the process more responsive, transparent and accountable” (Article 1[6]). In another part of the Perda, all local government institutions were obligated actively to announce to the public information regarding their various activities, including their policy formulations processes and their implementation (Article 4[1 & 2}). The Perda also obligated all local government institutions to give a proper response to any public inquiries regarding various aspects that were allowed by laws and regulations to be accessed by the public. From these various provisions, it is hard not to say that, normatively, Bandung District government had more political will than national government. However, as argued earlier, normative provisions become empty phrases without meaningful execution on the ground. Unfortunately, this has been a common phenomenon in many regions, including two case studies discussed in this thesis, as revealed in the following section.

It is suggested here that undemocratic political motives in embracing decentralization not only led to the weak commitment of political elites to construct clear and cohesive democratic decentralization reform frameworks, but also led to the lack of political commitment in implementing any existing regulations on the ground. This argument is particularly relevant for analyzing the empirical effect of various laws and regulations, which political elites often claim represent their commitment to promote democratic decentralization.

The success stories from, for example, the Indian State of Kerala, Porto Alegre in Brazil, Mozambique, and Bolivia (Abers 1996; Ardaya & Thevoz 2001; Heller 2001; Isaac 2001; Kulipossa 2004), reveal that democratic decentralization requires not only firm and cohesive legislation, but most importantly it must be actively promoted by national as well as local political authorities. The impressive experience of democratic decentralization in Kerala, for instance, shows that national as well as local political authorities played a decisive role in the launching of the People's Campaign for Decentralized Planning, which is widely recognized as “the boldest and most comprehensive decentralization initiative yet to be undertaken in India” (Heller 2001: 139). The Campaign project indicated that the Planning Board (the pilot agency of the campaign) played a significant role in designing new structures and processes for participatory planning and the Department of Local Administration played a strategic complementary role by actively formulating and implementing a host of new regulations and oversight structures to ensure transparency and accountability of local government. No less important, the authorities provided training programs to ensure transparency and participation without compromising the technical requirements of planning (Isaac 2001).

By the same token, the strong commitment of political elites under the Partido dos Trabalhadores in Brazil played a similar role in involving citizens “not only in the execution of government programs but also in decision making about how government spending should be allocated and the kinds of programs that should be implemented” (Abers 1996: 35-36; see also, Heller 2001: 140). This was done by giving ordinary citizens wide chances to debate various issues such as housing, education, health care, and budgetary policy within a number of municipal and district-level “councils” and “forums”. Similar to Kerala's experience, the Porto Alegre's administration also addressed the problems of technical skills and capacity by aggressively educating council participants on the details of the budget process and making the details of the budget the principal responsibility of those participants' representatives on the municipal council (Abers 1996: 45).

The democratic decentralization experiences of the Vilankulo, Dondo, and Nacala municipalities in Mozambique and Pucarani municipality in Bolivia show similar phenomena to Kerala and Porto Alegre. As Kulipossa (2004: 772, 773) observes, decentralization in several municipalities in Mozambique was relatively effective at fostering democracy, participation and empowerment at the local level due to the commitment of municipality councilors “to do a good job” particularly “in providing political education, responding swiftly and appropriately to local problems, promoting citizenship and participation, fostering innovation and learning, building and articulating community identity, emphasizing diversity, and dispersing power”. Bolivia's decentralization was also marked by dedicated political leaders who “created a culture of dialogue among political actors, fostering harmony in municipal affairs and civil society” (Ardaya & Thevoz 2001: 217).

Thus, in essence, the above cases point to the importance of committed political elites to actively facilitate the implementation of democratic decentralization reforms in order to achieve practical benefits. From this perspective, it is plausible to argue that the absence of strong political commitment of both national and local political authorities in Bandung District and City of Cirebon to oversee the implementation of various legislation has contributed to the failure of decentralization policies to achieve this democratic potential. This argument is particularly relevant for the enforcement of several laws and regulations during the Suharto and post-Suharto era that national and local political authorities often claim to be manifestations of their commitment to promote local democracy.

The lack of strong political will on the part of both national and local authorities was manifest, for instance, in the lack of limited forums or channels created by local government for members of community which allow them to meaningfully air their grievances, needs and demands, monitor the performance of the local government, and to influence the public-policy making process. The implementation of Permendagri No. 9 of 1982 regarding development planning, in Bandung and Cirebon for example, shows that the development planning process was practically dominated by national as well as local authorities as the main stakeholders. In addition, the main activities of development planning at local level were no more than splitting up centrally planned development policies, left little room for independent local planning. The element of bottom up planning was only conducted for the sake of formality since it involved only limited local community representation, usually in the form of appointed local officials and community leaders (tokoh masyarakat). Thus, it was conducted without participation of wider community. The formalistic nature of the bottom up approach was accentuated by the fact that the results of the forums were ‘defeated' by centrally planned development policies that had to be accommodated by local government.

The early post-Suharto years also brought little alteration. This assertion in fact has been common to many regions, not only in Bandung District and City of Cirebon, as evident in a survey conducted by The Asia Foundation in 2003. The survey discovered that (1) the state continued to play a dominant role and the mode of the process was more top-down than bottom-up. This was particularly manifested in the fact that central government technical departments and agencies continued to exert strong influence in policy and program formulation in several sectors such as education, agriculture, and health; (2) public participation remained limited. In development planning, for instance, the available bottom-up mechanism is still regarded as a formality. Community representatives tended to functioned more to receive inputs and relatively less to determine policy formulation. Local authorities including head of the region, local government officials, and the DPRD continued to play a dominant role in the dynamics of local public policy-making processes. These local authorities often articulated three justifications for this top-down and inclusive mode of policy-making process: it made a faster and more efficient policy process; it smoothed synchronization of local planning and regional policies; and local government has a better understanding of regional needs (The Asia Foundation, 2003: 12-13). These findings imply that both national and local political authorities lacked commitment to execute a number of existing legislations which could have developed more inclusive and democratic local government processes. In addition, to a certain extent, their justification also implies that they perceived the public as not having enough capacity to deal with public policy-making process. This justification might be well founded. However, knowing that public lacked capacity, government authorities did not take any initiative to complement the enforcement of those legislations with any training programs as was done in Kerala or Porto Alegre in order to improve members of local community's knowledge and awareness regarding so that they could improve their bargaining power vis-à-vis local government officials.

Thus, national and local legislation regarding participatory development planning or regarding public participation in local policy-making processes in post-Suharto era did not bring any significant alteration in terms of meaningful public participation since there have not been serious efforts either by national or local political authorities to oversee existing legislation. Even if ‘participatory' development planning takes place at all, it is conducted for the sake of formality. Overall, the top down approach remained the prevailing mode and with local bureaucrats, including the head of region, local government staffs and the DPRD played a dominant role in the dynamics of local policy-making process.

The legacy of long standing-authoritarian rule: another challenge to workable democratic decentralization

Jeffery J. Ryan (2004: 83) argues that “any project that aims to deepen democratic legitimacy is situated in and fundamentally shaped by a prevailing social reality”. Many cases show that the success or failures of decentralization reforms in bolstering local democracy depends largely on a country's prior experience with a democratic system of government. Kerala and Porto Alegre's successful democratic decentralization, for instance, was, to a large extent, due to their long successful tradition of democracy (Heller 2001; Abers 1996). In his words, Heller (2001: 133) argues that both regions “boast a rich and dense tapestry of grassroots democratic organizations―the historical legacy of prolonged mass-based prodemocracy movements―capable of mobilizing constituencies traditionally excluded from policy-making arenas, and dislodging traditional clientalistic networks”. On the contrary, the experiences of Costa Rica, Chile and Kenya, for instance, show that long-standing centralized and authoritarian rule hindered their decentralization policies achieving their stated goals of developing democratic local government (Ryan 2004; Khadiagala & Mitullah 2004; Ducci 2004). In essence, these three countries' political systems have long been devoid of citizen participation and dominated by the role of national or local government authorities.

Based on the above patterns, I would suggest that the lack of success in realizing the democratic potential of decentralization policies as represented by the experience of Bandung District and City of Cirebon also can be attributed to Indonesia's long experience of undemocratic system of governance.

During the revolutionary era, the experience of both Bandung District and City of Cirebon revealed that decentralization policy did not lead to significant alteration local political processes. Although at the outset decentralization was seen as an indispensable strategy to develop local democracy, this democratic potential could not be realized. Likewise, during the era of parliamentary democracy, even with the relatively progressive decentralization law (Law No. 1 of 1957), inclusive local political process remained at the level of rhetoric.

Although it may be true that the political situation during revolution era was not conducive for effective implementation of decentralization, other reasons are also quite compelling. During the revolutionary era, democracy could not be materialized because, as Liddle (1996: 179) firmly asserts, prior to the 1945 declaration of independence from the Dutch and Japanese colonial rule, Indonesia had practically no democratic experience. Although many traditional kingdoms were converted into modern administrative polities, the Dutch colonial government did little to change earlier conception of an aristocratic elite with paternalistic responsibility for the welfare of the masses (Liddle 1996: 182). This notion of firm separation between wong gedhe (literary means big people)―educated, state-employed, aristocratic in manner if not by birth―and wong cilik (literary means small people)―uneducated, employed in agriculture or petty trade, coarse in manner―which was particularly rooted in Javanese aristocratic culture,[5] but also in Sundanese traditional culture in West Java (Palmer 1959),[6] survived and continued to color political behavior of many Indonesians for decades after independence in 1945. Gaffar (1999: 24) argues that this hierarchical relationship between two different strata has become one of main characteristics of Indonesian political culture. Among the most important political implications of such a relationship is that the decision-making process becomes the exclusive domain of a small group of wong gedhe or political elite. Wong cilik or the masses do not have access to the process. The only role wong cilik play is implementing any policies or decisions that are made beyond their involvement.

Thus, it can be argued that elitist and exclusive local government practices as shown in Bandung and Cirebon during the revolutionary era also can be attributed to the persistence of the above hierarchical relationship. This line of thought also confirms Kahin's (1952: 478) observation that there was a strong inclination toward authoritarian method because of the

still-surviving authoritarian tradition…Despite its awakened national consciousness and the much increased vigor of its political life at the village level, peasant society was still not effectively linked with the national government in a mutually activated and mutually responsive relationship. The existing relationship was still predominantly a one-way affair―from the top down.

In line with Gaffar's analysis (1999: 11), democracy in the early days of the Republic was manifest only marginally in the form of basic structures of a democratic system such as political parties which were mainly geared to win the revolution by implanting the spirit of anti-imperialism and colonialism; legislative bodies which consisted of appointed representatives from various political parties and functional groups; executive bodies which played dominant roles managing daily governmental affairs, and no less important, the press which, similar to political parties', was directed toward supporting the revolutionary struggle. Thus, popular participation beyond the local elections was still an alien aspect in the local political process during this period.

Many prominent observers perceived the period between 1950 and 1957 as among the most democratic era of Indonesia's political history with regard to the freedom of speech, association, press and so on. Likewise, during this period, due to the enforcement of three important pieces of legislation, i.e. Law No. 16 of 1950, Law No. 7 of 1950, and Law No. 1 of 1957, local democracy also altered at least in two respects. First, members of local parliament were directly elected by local constituents. Second, local parliament was powerful vis-à-vis head of region, since the former was granted the right to elect and to hold the latter accountable. The enforcement brought changes in the local political constellation similar to that of national level.

Nevertheless, regional government and politics as shown in the analysis of Bandung District and City of Cirebon, and perhaps in other regions across Indonesia as Legge (1957) in East Java, Central Sumatra and Sulawesi, and Skinner (1959) observed in West Java, East Java, Central Sumatra and Sulawesi, were almost wholly dominated by urban elites with ambiguous ties to the mass of the population. Skinner (1959: 5) asserted that:

…in moving from local up into regional levels of sociopolitical structure, the villager almost immediately and universally encounters leaders and officials, groups and causes, which are predominantly town- and elite-oriented. The administrative officials are town-bred, often not from local area, and of markedly superior educational attainment and social status. Organizations based at regional levels are largely urban in character, and their leaders are seldom farmers. The councils (DPRD of Dewan Perwakilan Rakjat Daerah) at the kabupaten level, even in areas where they were popularly elected in 1957, consist largely towns-people identified with the civil service or following other urban-type occupations.

The ambiguous relationship between the elite and the masses in local politics was particularly accentuated by the fact that neither normative provisions nor empirical practices of local decision-making process indicated that popular participation was properly accommodated. One might argue that the direct election of members of local council by local constituents provides sufficient mechanism for developing effective local democracy. However, as argued earlier, direct elections are not sufficient for developing strong democracy since they only occur rarely and allow limited constituents' input and feedback regarding policies or local concerns (Posner 2004: 27). Meaningful popular participation might have been sufficient if it was then sustained by sophisticated and effective communication mechanisms between members of local councils and their constituents beyond the elections. However, as evident in Bandung District and City of Cirebon, this condition was absent. In fact, there was no significant reform in this regard. In the aftermath of the 1957 local council elections, local political processes continued to be the exclusive domain of local political elites. This assertion also confirms Palmer's (1959) and Legge's (1957: 61) observation. Legge in particular observed that “the gap between government and the great mass of the governed” was still present, which “gives local administration in Indonesia something of a colonial character still”. Accordingly, due to a lack of input by local people, it is not surprising when Legge also argued that the autonomous district level of local government tended to serve the interests of the elite instead of those of the masses.

Thus, the dynamic of so-called parliamentary democracy did not necessary mean that local people were more involved in local political processes beyond the elections. Needless to say, this persistence of local people's alienation from local politics beyond the elections can be attributed to different factors, as reflected by conflicting theses regarding the reasons for the collapse of Indonesia's parliamentary democracy.[7] Similar to Benda's argument (1982), who basically argued that the failure constitutional democracy was due to incompatibility of the system with Indonesia's society, history and politics, I would argue, that the above thesis regarding the influence of feudalistic and authoritarianism rule is still quite relevant. The malfunctioning of local democratic instruments during so-called parliamentary or constitutional democracy in both case studies can partly be attributed to the continuation of strong influence of traditional hierarchical power relationships between local political elite and local masses.

National as well as local politics became “increasingly limited and shrunken decision-making arena” (Liddle 1973: 1) from early 1957 when Sukarno applied martial law following heightened political crisis in the aftermath of 1955 elections, which then reached its peak in mid 1958 when regional rebellions erupted in Sulawesi and Central Sumatra, posing significant challenge to the central government. For four decades following the demise of parliamentary democracy, Indonesia experienced two types of authoritarianism[8]: the personal rule of President Sukarno's Guided Democracy between 1959 and 1965, and the army-backed New Order of President Suharto between 1966 and 1998.

The transition from parliamentary democracy towards Guided Democracy was marked by the demise of a number of institutions associated with a functioning democracy. Among them were the political parties, which had previously played a powerful role in national politics. With the crucial exception of the PKI, political parties were either banned or subject to much tighter control. The press was also constrained. Some papers were banned, and others were forced to reduce their circulation. Most importantly, national as well as local councils also did not reconstruction. No elections were held during this period. The membership of councils was appointed and their political positions were subordinated to the President at national level, or to the head of region at local levels (Feith 1962: 59-2597; Soemardjan 1963; Ricklefs 1981: 253-258). With this change in the councils, Hatta asserted that “the last remnants of democracy” had disappeared, and hence, Sukarno's Guided Democracy was no more that “a dictatorship supported by certain groups” (Hatta 1970: 140).

Furthermore, politics became highly centralized with Sukarno as a “centrist” politique, an apt term used by Anderson (1972: 25) to refer to one of the central characteristics of Sukarno's Guided Democracy regime. Similar to what happened at the national level, the heads of regions became the central s in local politics, virtually marginalizing other essential local stakeholders, as Selosoemardjan (1970: 129) also affirmed, Political parties no longer decide legislative and executive issues; the decisive powers are now entirely in the hands of the administrative officers, the President on the national level, and the Governor, the bupati, and the village headman, each of his own area of jurisdiction.

As evident in Bandung and Cirebon, the issuance of Decree No. 6 of 1959 and No. 5 of 1960 forestalled the implementation of decentralization of authority to autonomous local executives and legislatures. The Decrees were intended to tighten Jakarta's control over local government authority through the direct appointment of those local authority and hence were held accountable to their bureaucratic superiors. Local politics became more devoid of popular participation since virtually all local policies and programs were centrally formulated and hierarchically implemented down to the lowest levels of government. Most of these policies and programs reflected Sukarno's personal view regarding “the unfinished Indonesian revolution”. Local governments were flooded with various instructions from the central government which mainly revolved around fashioning “new symbols of state, new formulations of the meaning of the present and of the goals to be sought in the future” which in turn, side-lined local administrative and economic activities (Feith 1962: 549).

In short, the political system throughout Guided Democracy era moved far away from the democracy of the parliamentary democracy period. All the remnants of the democratic system developed during the previous period were shut down because they were basically perceived by Sukarno's regime as the source of the nation's instability and hence, forcefully replaced by an authoritarian system of government. Even though it was true that “Political articulation had certainly lost its earlier open character; much existing dissatisfaction could not be expressed; and a number of groups had their channels of influence closed off”, Sukarno's regime did not “attempt to resort to extreme coercion, concentration camps, elaborate secret police organization, or isolation from the outside world” (Feith 1962: 594). This fact was among the factors that differentiated Sukarno's Guided Democracy from Suharto's New Order regime.

Instead of losing its momentum, the influence of authoritarianism was even stronger in the aftermath of the dramatic end of Guided Democracy in 1965. Emerging from crisis and turmoil and learning hard lessons from the previous regime, Suharto's New Order was shaped by the idea that government should be “sufficiently insulated from sectional interests and public opinions to enable it to pursue policy in the national interest” (Cribb & Brown 1995: 114). In turn, Suharto's regime relied heavily on “the twin pillars of political repression and controlling political participation” (Cribb & Brown 1995: 120).

Phenomenal political repression, was conducted in the immediate aftermath of the 1965 coup with the violent suppression of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) through mass killings and extensive imprisonment of leftists after the killings in various prison camps (Cribb & Brown 1995: 120). As Richard Tanter (1990: 269) observes, the memory of the massacres eventually functioned to maintain a measure of terror in the minds of Indonesian people so as to decrease the need for the regime to apply direct repression and terror in order to maintain political status quo. The event also led to the setting up of a repressive institution called KOPKAMTIB (Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order),[9] a special security command within the armed forces based on Sukarno's instruction to Suharto to restore security and order. Initially, KOPKAMTIB was used by Suharto an effective tool to eradicate the PKI and thus, communism, but then it became a powerful device within the Department of Defence and Security which gave the authorities the right to arrest and to hold anyone whom they suspected of conducting subversive activities (Liddle 1996: 19).

Another powerful institution called BAKIN (State Board for Intelligence Coordination)[10] was also established with specific function of “maintaining surveillance of the civilian community in order to track down dangerous dissent for referral to the security forces” (Cribb & Brown 1995). No less powerful was the General Directorate of Social and Politics (Dirjen Sospol) within the Ministry of Home Affairs. This institution conducted effective surveillance down to local level. Every social and political activity, including research must have permission from this office (Syaukani, Gaffar & Rasyid 2003).

The existence of the above institutions was effective in keeping dissenting voices quiet. However, political repression was not the only strategy deployed by the New Order regime. A number of policies aimed specifically at controlling and reducing popular participation in politics in general were also deployed by the New Order regime. Among the most powerful was the ‘floating mass' policy (kebijakan massa mengambang) based on Law No. 3 of 1975 on political parties and Golkar. Originally propounded by Ali Moertopo, one of the Suharto's personal assistants, the concept was based on the assumption that the vast majority of the Indonesian population was not politically sophisticated and hence, prone to politicking which could destabilize social harmony (Vatikiotis 1993: 95). This policy was conducted by prohibiting political parties maintaining branches below the district level of government. As a result, villagers' political participation was channeled through non-party organizations created by the state, all of which were under Golkar's guidance. These organizations included the LMD (village consultative assembly), LKMD (village people's defense council), PKK (family welfare guidance), or Karang Taruna (village youth group) (Hadiwinata 2003: 56). Thus, the “floating mass” policy served not only to disadvantage two loyal opposition parties―PPP and PDI―by not allowing them to have branches beyond district level of government (Cribb & Brown 1995: 131), but more importantly, it effectively and severely restricted ordinary people from political activities beyond the elections. [11]

Elections during the New Order era did not allow for ordinary citizens to meaningfully materialize their sovereignty in controlling the government. Instead, throughout the New Order's period, Indonesian people witnessed that the elections were highly controlled and manipulated by the Suharto regime in order to obtain formal legitimacy and hence, maintain the political status quo. As skeptically stated by Cribb (1984: 655), elections in Indonesia were mainly intended “to serve an established regime”. Indonesian people also witnessed how the New Order regime engaged in various ruses to ensure that Golkar could win all elections and at the same time, “molested” the only two “loyal opposition parties” (Hermawan 2007: 202)―PPP and PDI―including their sympathizers. It was widely known that the New Order regime forced local authorities down to village level to make their local citizen to vote for Golkar.

Thus, for decades, instead of functioning as democratic institutions for Indonesian people, elections throughout the New Order era in fact constituted a powerful means for the regime to reinforce and preserve its ascendency. In addition, the elections gave at least three important lessons for many Indonesians. First, freedom of expression and association were strictly limited. The regime's

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