May 22, 2008

ALONG THE AXIS:

Indonesia: Not yet a dream; no longer a nightmare: A boom in satire marks a decade of sturdy democracy (The Economist, 5/22/08)

Although Suharto's authoritarianism is a distant nightmare, Indonesia is not yet a dream republic, hence the ironic title of Mr Effendi's show. Demos, a Jakarta think-tank, this month published a survey of over 900 Indonesian “experts” on the state of democracy in the country. They concluded that it is now as entrenched as it is in India and that the openness and honesty of state institutions is improving. However, despite the recent victories for press freedom, Demos noted a deterioration in other liberties since its last survey, in 2003-04, notably religious freedom.

A topical example of this is the demand by a semi-official group of Muslim clerics to ban Ahmadiyah, a “heretical” sect. Mr Yudhoyono at first intended to go along with this proposal, to appease the small but aggressive Islamist minority. Now, after an outcry by liberals, the president is dithering—his default mode.

As its parliament shows, Indonesia has a secular-minded and fairly liberal majority. But Eva Sundari, an opposition lawmaker and one of Demos's panel of experts, worries that progressives are failing to find a common voice against a few “very organised and systematic” religious conservatives. These now represent the main menace to Indonesia's development as an open society.

It used to be the army that was the main threat to democracy. In Suharto's day it dominated politics. Not any more. Generals sometimes grumble about modern freedoms, and some may run in next year's elections on a ticket of nostalgia for the strict “order” of pre-1998 days. But Mr Rais reckons the top brass realises democracy is the only option.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 22, 2008 2:34 PM
Comments

Fascinating Rectification of Names issue here, concerning the use of the word "progressive."

That word was used to describe those Indonesians who strive for the dismantling of the Spiritual Jailhouse, which would in fact be significant progress.

Contrast that to the so-called "progressives" in our own land who advocate appeasement and surrender, and who boast of their record of willingness to leave the jailhouse undisturbed.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 23, 2008 4:53 AM
« THE END OF HISTORY IS WRITTEN IN ENGLISH: | Main | IF ONLY HE WEREN'T SO PRO-DEATH AND PRO-TAX HE'D BE ANOTHER JFK: »