Indonesia: The politics of inclusion

Andrew Rosser, Kurnya Roesad, Donni Edwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Much commentary on Indonesian politics since the fall of President Suharto in May 1998 has suggested that Indonesia's political system has remained just as exclusionary as it was prior to his fall, despite becoming much more democratic and decentralised. In contrast to this view, we argue that Indonesia's political system has become more inclusive, if only somewhat more so. The fall of Suharto and the subsequent process of democratisation have removed key obstacles to organisation by poor and disadvantaged groups and their NGO allies, making it easier for them to engage in collective action aimed at achieving pro-poor policy change. By making attainment of political office dependent on the support of the voting public, many of whom are poor and disadvantaged, these developments have also created an incentive for politicians to pursue policy changes that favour these groups or at least that appeal to them. At the same time, however, we argue that poor and disadvantaged groups have not become major players in the policy-making process. Despite the fall of Suharto and democratisation, these groups continue to lack the resources possessed by other participants in the policy-making process. Whereas the politico-bureaucrats and well-connected business groups have been able to exercise influence over policy by buying support within representative bodies such as parliament and mobile capita controllers, the IFIs and Western governments have been able to exercise influence by virtue of their structural power, poor and disadvantaged groups have had to rely on less potent ways of exercising influence such as holding demonstrations, engaging in lobbying activity and participating in public debates. We illustrate these points with reference to two policy issues: land reform and mining in protected forests. The article concludes by considering the future prospects for inclusive policy-making in Indonesia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-77
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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