The Foreign Service Journal, May 2018

56 MAY 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Political Transitions and Human Rights During the past 20 years Indonesians have chosen national leaders four times, first through parliamentary elections and then direct popular elections. Those elections have proceeded without significant violence or irregularities and, with one excep- tion, the subsequent transitions have complied with the Indone- sian Constitution. Yet even that case suggests strong support for civilian rule. In 2001 the country’s armed forces refused to obey the orders of Abdurrahman Wahid, the nation’s first democratically elected president, when he sought to declare a state of emergency to head off his removal. Instead, 40,000 troops marched into the capital with guns pointed at the presidential palace. Parliament then voted to remove Wahid from office, replacing him with Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Megawati lost her 2004 election bid to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a retired general who, as a minister in Wahid’s gov- ernment, had refused to support his call to declare a state of emergency. And in 2014 President Joko Widodo (popularly known as Jowodi) defeated a field of candidates that included major military figures. Political transitions and governance at the provin- cial and local level have not always been as democratic as those at the national level, to be sure. Significant economic and judicial cor- ruption, as well as the extensive role and power of the Indone- sian military, continue to influence political campaigns, party candidate selections and elections. At the same time, respect for personal freedoms in Indo- nesia is constrained by what Amnesty International describes as “broad and vaguely worded laws” that are used to “restrict personal rights, notably the right to free expression and of peace- ful assembly and association.” Many of these statutes date to the Suharto era, and some back to the period of Dutch colonial rule. The criminal code includes articles criminalizing “rebellion,” “incitement,” “defamation” and “blasphemy.” These crimes, which are not well-defined, have served as the basis for charges against all manner of dissent, and even peaceful protest. The U.S. State Department’s annual 2016 human rights report for Indone- sia notes that “elements within the government applied treason, blasphemy, defamation and decency laws to limit freedom of expression and assembly.” For its part, Amnesty International counts at least 38 prisoners of conscience in Indonesian prisons. Religious and other minorities, including LGBT organiza- tions and citizens, face harassment, intimidation and violence, especially frommilitant Islamists. The government does not effectively protect minorities from such violence, and sometimes actually stokes it with inflammatory rhetoric. The National Human Rights Commission is not an effective Political transitions and governance at the provincial and local level have not always been as democratic as those at the national level, to be sure. A woman votes in the 2014 parliamentary election in Aceh. IFES/COURTESYOFUSAID