Source: M Risyal Hidayat / ANTARA FOTO

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Indonesia ranked 64 in the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s Democracy Index for 2020 — its lowest ranking in 14 years.

The archipelagic nation recorded an overall global score of 6.3, down from 6.48 in 2019. It was classified as a ‘flawed democracy’.

Regionally in Asia and Australasia, Indonesia ranked 11th, below Mongolia and ahead of Sri Lanka. Indonesia also ranked below Malaysia, Timor Leste, and the Philippines.

Malaysia, also grouped as a ‘flawed democracy’, ranked 39th globally with an overall score of 9.25. Regionally, the nation ranked sixth place behind South Korea and above Timor-Leste.

Flawed democracies are described by the EIU as nations in which free and fair elections are held, and “even if there are problems such as infringements on media freedom, basic civil liberties are respected”.

However, significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy are present in flawed democracies, “including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation”.

Another category used by the EIU in its Democracy Index is hybrid regimes, which are characterised by “substantial irregularities prevent the countries from being both free and fair”.

Government pressure on opposition parties and candidates may be common in hybrid regimes. Pressure on civil society and the media is typical, where there is harassment of and pressure on journalists. The judiciary is not independent of the executive and the legislative body in such regimes, the EIU stated.

The other two categories — both on the extreme ends of the four types — are full democracies and authoritarian regimes.

In full democracies, basic political freedoms and civil liberties are respected. Effective systems of checks and balances exist. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislative, and media — the Fourth Estate — are also independent. There are only limited problems in the functioning of democracies.

In authoritarian regimes, state political pluralism is absent or heavily circumscribed, with many being dictatorships.

“Some formal institutions of democracy may exist, but these have little substance. Elections, if they do occur, are not free and fair. There is disregard for abuses and infringements of civil liberties. Media are typically state-owned or controlled by groups connected to the ruling regime. There is repression of criticism of the government and pervasive censorship. There is no independent judiciary,” according to the EIU.

Five indicators were used by the EIU to determine a country’s democracy index, namely electoral process and pluralism, government performance and functions, political participation, political culture, and civil liberty.

Scandinavian nationsNorway, Iceland, and Swedendominated the index last year in first, second and third place respectively.

Ranking due to stricter law enforcement in the government’s efforts to combat intolerance and radicalism

In response to Indonesia’s position in the EIU Democracy Index last year, Deputy V at the Presidential Staff Office, Jaleswari Pramodhawardani said that such was due to stricter law enforcement in the government’s efforts to combat intolerance and radicalism.

Jaleswari added that the index did not include the current internal situation in a particular country when assessing the level of democratic conditions.

She stressed that the Indonesian government is committed to maintaining and strengthening democracy in Indonesia.

Ranking could have been worse if indicators used in index were more in-depth, says legal aid advocate

Overall, the EIU stated that the global average democracy index declined in 2020, with an average overall score of 5.37, down from 5.44 in 2019.

The score is the lowest since 2006 when the report was released in 2006 for the first time.

Era Purnama Sari, Advocacy Deputy at the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), told TOC that Indonesia’s ranking in index could have been worse if the questions used for each indicator had been more specific and in-depth.

“Ironically, political elites have used the pandemic situation to pass policies that are harming people’s rights. For example, the rise in the premium of the healthcare and social security agency (BPJS).

“Previously, the Supreme Court issued a verdict that was against the rise, but the government reversed it. How are people able to deal with such an increase in a difficult situation like this? Many people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic,” Era said.

Throughout 2020, agrarian conflicts remained high amid the pandemic when social restrictions were imposed.

The number of land conflicts in 2020 reached 241, the data from the Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA) stated.

Era claimed there were at least controversial policies during the pandemic, including the introduction of the much-debated Omnibus Law on Job Creation that triggered nationwide protests as the law is considered a pro-investment.

Freedom of expression curtailed during pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic also exacerbated the curtailment of press freedom worldwide.

Several countries have censored the press from reporting something that can tarnish their government’s image, including by blocking critical media outlets that are often critical of the establishment, the 2020 World Press Freedom Index stated.

Indonesia’s outspoken media outlets Tempo and Tirto, for example, were hacked after publishing reports on questioning the military and the intelligence role in the COVID-19 medicine production.

At the end of 2020, a Tempo journalist admitted facing a hack attempt after reporting on the distribution of social aid graft scandal involving former social minister Juliari Batubara, who has been charged for the alleged offence.

“Data from YLBHI showed that 351 violations on civilian freedoms were recorded in 2020. People were banned from searching for information, expressing their opinion, and also a personal data breach.

“Around 52 per cent of the cases were criminalisation. We note that 20 had died from extrajudicial killings,” Era elaborated.

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