Freedom in the World
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Freedom in the World Scores
Indonesia has made impressive democratic gains since the fall of an authoritarian regime in 1998, establishing significant pluralism in politics and the media and undergoing multiple, peaceful transfers of power between parties. However, the country continues to struggle with challenges including systemic corruption, discrimination and violence against some minority groups, separatist tensions in the Papua region, and the politicized use of defamation and blasphemy laws.
Key Developments in 2017:
- Jakarta’s incumbent governor, an ethnic Chinese Christian, lost his campaign for reelection in an April runoff vote amid blasphemy allegations, for which he was then sentenced to two years in prison.
- In July, President Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) issued a decree enabling the executive branch to unilaterally ban organizations, taking judicial oversight out of the process. The radical Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia was the first to be disbanded under the decree, but critics of the measure warned that human rights groups could also be summarily dissolved.
- Setya Novanto, the speaker of the House of Representatives and chairman of the Golkar party, was arrested in November and resigned the following month as he went on trial for alleged involvement in a $170 million corruption scandal surrounding procurements for a new identity card system.
- In December, the Constitutional Court rejected a petition that would have criminalized both extramarital and same-sex sexual activity. However, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people continued to face harassment and infringements on their civil rights, including under local and regional Sharia (Islamic law) ordinances.
POLITICAL RIGHTS: 30 / 40 (−1)
A. ELECTORAL PROCESS: 11 / 12
A1. Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4 / 4
The president is directly elected and serves as both head of state and head of government. Presidents and vice presidents can serve up to two five-year terms. Jokowi, the candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), won the July 2014 presidential election with 53 percent of the vote, defeating former general Prabowo Subianto. Limited voting irregularities and sporadic election-related violence were reported, but the contest was largely considered free and fair.
A2. Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4 / 4
The House of Representatives (DPR), the main parliamentary chamber, consists of 560 members elected in 33 multimember districts. The 132-member House of Regional Representatives (DPD) is responsible for monitoring laws related to regional autonomy, and may also propose bills on the topic. All legislators serve five-year terms with no term limit.
The PDI-P, the party of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, led the DPR elections in April 2014 with 19 percent of the vote and 109 seats. Golkar, the party of former authoritarian president Suharto, won 91 seats, followed by Prabowo’s Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) with 73 seats. The Democratic Party (PD) of outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono received 61 seats. Three Islamic parties—the National Mandate Party (PAN), the National Awakening Party (PKB), and the United Development Party (PPP)—increased their total vote share, taking 49, 47, and 39 seats, respectively. A fourth, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), fell to 40 seats. NasDem and the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) won the remainder, with 35 and 16 seats, respectively.
As with that year’s presidential election, the balloting was largely considered free and fair, though there were reports of irregularities in some regions, including political violence during the preelection period in Aceh and voter-list inflation, ballot stuffing, and community bloc voting in Papua.
A3. Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 3 / 4
The legal framework for elections is largely democratic, and electoral authorities are mostly seen as impartial. However, some legal provisions are problematic. Under a 2012 law, the hereditary sultan of Yogyakarta is that region’s unelected governor. The position is nonpartisan, and the sultan is subject to a verification process with minimum requirements—such as education—every five years. The prince of Paku Alaman serves as deputy governor of the region. Separately, a 2016 revision to the law governing local elections requires that the Election Oversight Agency (Bawaslu) and the General Elections Commission (KPU) consult with the parliament and the government before issuing any new regulations or decisions, and states that the consultation results are binding. Activists expressed concern that the rules would reduce electoral authorities’ independence.
In July 2017, the DPR approved a new General Elections Law that requires 2019 presidential candidates to have the support of a party or coalition that received at least 20 percent of the parliament’s seats or 25 percent of the national vote in 2014. The provision effectively bars new or smaller parties from fielding candidates in the presidential race. Rules in place for the 2014 presidential election had set the same thresholds, but they pertained to the parliament elected just a few months earlier; the 2019 parliamentary and presidential votes will be held simultaneously. Although the new elections law was challenged with a petition to the Constitutional Court, Jokowi signed it in August. The court review was still pending at year’s end.
B. POLITICAL PLURALISM AND PARTICIPATION: 13 / 16 (−1)
B1. Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4 / 4
The right to organize political parties is respected, and the system features competition among several major parties. However, in recent years the election laws have been amended to favor large parties by increasing eligibility requirements for parliamentary and presidential candidacy. Only 12 parties passed verification processes for the 2014 national elections, down from 48 in 1999. The 2017 General Elections Law requires new parties to undergo a “factual verification” process to compete in the 2019 elections. Parties that competed in 2014 do not have to undergo the same process, which involves confirming the accuracy of submitted documents on parties’ management, membership, and operations.
B2. Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4 / 4
Indonesia has established a pattern of democratic power transfers between rival parties since 1999. The most recent such handover occurred in 2014, when Jokowi’s PDI-P returned to power after losing the previous two presidential elections. The new General Elections Law may make it more difficult for opposition forces to enter government by tying presidential candidates’ eligibility to their parties’ past electoral success.
B3. Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group that is not democratically accountable? 3 / 4
Voters and candidates are generally free from undue interference by groups outside the political system. However, the military remains influential, with former commanders playing prominent roles in politics, and intimidation by nonstate actors—including Islamist radical groups—is a problem.
B4. Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 2 / 4 (−1)
Women enjoy equal political rights, though they remain underrepresented in elected offices. Parties are subject to 30 percent gender quotas for founding members and candidate lists. Women won about 17 percent of the seats in the 2014 DPR elections. In August 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that a woman could become governor of Yogyakarta, paving the way for the current sultan’s daughter to succeed him.
Some local governments have discriminated against religious minorities by restricting access to identification cards, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other bureaucratic necessities, limiting their political rights and electoral opportunities. In November 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of adherents of unrecognized indigenous religions who challenged laws requiring them to either identify with one of the country’s six recognized faiths or leave the relevant section blank on their ID cards, exposing them to accusations of atheism. The ruling was expected to lead to some form of accommodation for native religions, but it was unlikely to aid members of Shiite and Admadiyya Muslim communities, who face officials and local rules that do not recognize their faiths as Islamic.
Even recognized religious minorities have encountered major obstacles when running for office. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (“Ahok”), the ethnic Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta, rose from deputy governor when Jokowi, then the governor, was elected president in 2014. Ahok sought election in his own right, but hard-line Islamist groups accused him of making blasphemous comments during a campaign appearance in September 2016, triggering a series of protests and criticism in addition to criminal charges. Ahok led the first-round voting in February 2017, but lost the April runoff, and in May he was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy against Islam.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 due to the blasphemy case against a Christian candidate for governor of Jakarta and ongoing restrictions on unrecognized religious minorities’ access to identification documents.
C. FUNCTIONING OF GOVERNMENT: 6 / 12
C1. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 3 / 4
Elected officials generally determine the policies of the government, though national authorities have faced difficulties in implementing their decisions due to resistance at the local and regional level. Separately, observers have warned that the military is regaining influence over civilian governance and economic affairs.
C2. Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 1 / 4
Corruption remains endemic, including in the parliament, civil service, judiciary, and police. Acrimony between rival agencies—particularly the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the national police—has hindered anticorruption efforts, and civilian investigators have no jurisdiction over the military. High-profile corruption suspects and defendants have often enjoyed impunity. However, DPR speaker and Golkar party chairman Setya Novanto was arrested in November 2017 and resigned in December as he went on trial for alleged involvement in a $170 million corruption scandal surrounding procurements for a new identity card system. He had previously resigned amid separate corruption allegations in 2015 but returned to office the following year.
C3. Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2 / 4
Although civil society groups are able to comment on and influence pending policies or legislation, government transparency is limited by broad exemptions in the freedom of information law and obstacles such as a 2011 law that criminalizes the leaking of vaguely defined state secrets to the public.
CIVIL LIBERTIES: 34 / 60
D. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND BELIEF: 12 / 16
D1. Are there free and independent media? 3 / 4
Indonesia hosts a vibrant and diverse media environment, though press freedom is hampered by a number of legal and regulatory restrictions. Licensing rules are stringent but unevenly enforced, meaning thousands of broadcast stations operate illegally. Although Jokowi lifted rules requiring special permission for foreign journalists to travel to the provinces of Papua and West Papua in 2015, journalists seeking to visit the region have continued to report bureaucratic obstacles and deportations.
Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) documented dozens of assaults, threats, and other forms of obstruction directed against journalists during 2017, and police were responsible for many of the incidents. Journalists often practice self-censorship to avoid running afoul of civil and criminal defamation laws. The 2008 Law on Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE Law) extended libel and other restrictions to online media, criminalizing the distribution or accessibility of information or documents that are “contrary to the moral norms of Indonesia” or related to gambling, blackmail, or defamation.
D2. Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 1 / 4
Indonesia officially recognizes only Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Individuals who do not identify with one of these religions may leave the relevant section on their identity cards blank, but those who do—including adherents of unrecognized faiths—often face discrimination. The November 2017 Constitutional Court ruling on behalf of indigenous religions found that the existing options were unconstitutionally restrictive, suggesting that another, more general religious category be added to accommodate the affected believers. Atheism is not accepted, and the criminal code contains provisions against blasphemy, penalizing those who “distort” or “misrepresent” recognized faiths.
National and local governments have repeatedly failed to protect religious minorities from violence and discrimination, and exhibited bias in investigations and prosecutions. To obtain a permit to build a new house of worship, a religious group must gather the signatures of 90 congregation members and 60 local residents of different faiths; the rule has been used to block or target minority religious sites.
Violence and intimidation against Ahmadiyya and Shiite communities persists, and the central government continues to tolerate persecution of these groups by local governments. In March 2017, three leaders of Gafatar, a heterodox Muslim group that faced attacks and expulsions in Kalimantan during 2016, received prison sentences ranging from three to five years for blasphemy.
D3. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4 / 4
Academic freedom is generally respected, though there are sporadic reports of pressure from hard-line groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) to cancel lectures that feature minority faiths or related issues. The military and police have also been active in monitoring and quelling academic discussions of a period in 1965–66 when the military and allied groups carried out mass purges and killings of alleged members of the Indonesia Communist Party (PKI).
D4. Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4 / 4
There are no major obstacles to open and free private discussion, though laws against blasphemy, defamation, and certain other forms of speech may sometimes inhibit the expression of personal views on sensitive topics, including on social media.
E. ASSOCIATIONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL RIGHTS: 8 / 12
E1. Is there freedom of assembly? 2 / 4
Freedom of assembly is usually upheld, and peaceful protests are common. However, assemblies in support of minority groups or to address sensitive political topics—such as the 1965–66 massacres or regional separatism—are regularly dispersed, with participants facing intimidation or violence from hard-line vigilantes or police. Amnesty International reported in August 2017 that since 2015 there had been 39 cases throughout the archipelago of authorities canceling events and intimidating participants in discussions related to 1965–66. In September police arbitrarily disbanded one such event held at the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) in Jakarta.
Also during 2017, police continued to carry out arrests and detentions of Papuan students and activists who joined, organized, or planned to participate in protests and other gatherings. In August police shot into a crowd at a protest in Deiyai, West Papua, killing one person and injuring over a dozen others. A 2010 regulation allows national police to use live ammunition to quell situations of “anarchic violence.”
E2. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 3 / 4
While civil society organizations are strong and active in Indonesia, some human rights groups are subject to government monitoring and interference. A 2013 law requires all nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to register with the government and submit to regular reviews of their activities. It limits the types of activities NGOs can undertake and bars them from committing blasphemy or espousing ideas that conflict with the official Pancasila ideology, such as atheism and communism. The government is empowered to dissolve noncompliant organizations. A July 2017 presidential decree—later approved by the DPR in October—amended the law governing NGOs to remove judicial oversight from the process by which the executive dissolves “anti-Pancasila” organizations. The radical Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia was the first to be disbanded under the decree, though critics warned that the new rules could be turned on any organization that angered the government.
E3. Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 3 / 4
Workers can join independent unions, bargain collectively, and with the exception of civil servants, stage strikes. Legal strikes can be unduly delayed by obligatory arbitration processes, and laws against antiunion discrimination are not well enforced. Some unions have resorted to violence in their negotiations with employers, and labor-related demonstrations are common.
F. RULE OF LAW: 5 / 16
F1. Is there an independent judiciary? 2 / 4
The judiciary has demonstrated its independence in some cases, but the court system remains plagued by corruption and other weaknesses. In September 2017, a former Constitutional Court judge was sentenced to eight years in prison for taking bribes to influence the judicial review of an animal husbandry law.
F2. Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 1 / 4
Police reportedly engage in arbitrary arrests and short-term detentions, particularly of protesters or activists suspected of separatism. Existing safeguards against the use of coerced confessions in court are not effective, and defendants are sometimes denied proper access to legal counsel, including in death penalty cases.
A number of districts and provinces have issued ordinances based on Sharia that in many cases are unconstitutional, contradict Indonesia’s international human rights commitments, or are difficult to enforce due to lack of clarity.
F3. Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1 / 4
Security forces regularly go unpunished or receive lenient sentences for human rights violations. Military service members accused of crimes against civilians are tried in military courts, which lack impartiality and often impose light punishments. Torture by law enforcement agencies is not specifically criminalized. Poor prison governance is compounded by endemic overcrowding and corruption, leading to riots, protests over lack of services, and jailbreaks.
Urged on by comments from the president and other senior officials, police increased the use of deadly force against suspected drug traffickers during 2017. According to Amnesty International, police reportedly shot and killed at least 98 people in drug-related cases, compared with 18 in 2016.
Deadly confrontations between security forces and protesters are common in Papua and West Papua, as are extrajudicial killings, tribal conflict, and violence related to labor disputes at foreign-operated mines and other resource-extraction enterprises.
In Aceh, provincial authorities are permitted to impose corporal punishment in the form of caning under regulations based on Sharia. Caning is regularly administered for offenses related to gambling, alcohol consumption, and illicit sexual activity.
F4. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 1 / 4
Women enjoy equality before the law on many issues, but some national laws and numerous local ordinances discriminate against women either explicitly or in effect. Women also face de facto discrimination in employment. Working men receive tax benefits that are unavailable to their wives, as husbands are deemed the heads of households.
LGBT people suffer from widespread discrimination, harassment by local officials, and attacks by hard-line Islamist groups, sometimes with support from local authorities. In addition to the many local bylaws that effectively criminalize LGBT people, a 2008 antipornography law labels same-sex sexual acts as “deviant.” Transgender people are routinely arrested and have difficulty obtaining official documents. Among other incidents during 2017, the authorities carried out a caning sentence on two suspected gay men in Aceh in May, forcibly evicted suspected lesbians from housing in West Java in September, and used the antipornography law in October to arrest 51 men at a sauna in Jakarta. However, in December the Constitutional Court rejected a petition that would have changed the national criminal code to penalize all sex outside heterosexual marriage.
Ethnic Chinese, who make up as little as 1 percent of the population but are resented by some for reputedly holding much of the country’s wealth, continue to face harassment.
Indonesia grants temporary protection to refugees and migrants, including those stranded at sea, but the country is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and does not accept refugees for asylum and resettlement.
G. PERSONAL AUTONOMY AND INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS: 9 / 16
G1. Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 3 / 4
The freedoms to travel and change one’s place of residence, employment, or higher education are generally respected. However, the ability to make such changes, particularly when obtaining public employment, can be limited by the need for bribes or other inducements.
G2. Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 2 / 4
Private business activity is hampered by corruption. Property rights are threatened by mining and logging activity on communal land and state appropriation of land claimed by indigenous groups. Ethnic Chinese in Yogyakarta face restrictions on the right to own private property under a 1975 decree that contradicts national laws.
G3. Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 2 / 4
Abortion is illegal except to save a woman’s life or in instances of rape. Adults over 15 years of age must have corroboration and witnesses to bring rape charges.
Sharia-based ordinances in a number of districts impose restrictions on dress, public conduct, and sexual activity that are disproportionately enforced against women and LGBT people. Women applying to work for the police and military must undergo “virginity tests” in some areas.
Marriages must be conducted under the supervision of a recognized religion, which can sometimes obstruct interfaith marriages; civil marriage is not possible. Divorce is legal, but civil servants seeking divorce must first undergo a mediation and approval process through a government personnel agency. The minimum age for marriage is 16 for women and 19 for men, and child marriage is relatively common for girls.
G4. Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 2 / 4
National, provincial, and local authorities set legal standards for working conditions and compensation, but these are not consistently enforced. Many Indonesian workers are trafficked abroad for forced labor, including women in domestic service and men in the fishing industry. Traffickers are often able to avoid punishment due to corruption among law enforcement officials. Forced labor and sexual exploitation have also been reported within Indonesia, though to a lesser extent.