On February 14, 2024, more than 200 million voters in the country and the Indonesian diaspora worldwide will participate in the five-yearly democratic celebration.
As the election date approaches, the maneuvers of political elites and the underlying scenarios have become a common topic across the nation.
Many individuals have already chosen their preferred leaders and showed staunch support for one of the contesting parties. Despite the political climate heating up, several UGM experts agree that this election feels different.
The potential polarization is likely not as intense as in the two previous elections, and the prospects for both horizontal and vertical conflicts are relatively low.
“The likelihood of extreme polarization is almost non-existent. Especially in the legislative election, it’s relatively not generating conflict at the grassroots level,” Dr. Riza Noer Arfani, lecturer of the UGM Master’s in Peace and Conflict Resolution, stated during the “Pojok Bulaksumur” event on Friday, October 27.
Dr. Arfani pointed out that the reduced conflict potential extends to the realm of digital media.
Unlike before, he believes society’s enthusiasm for digitalization has become stable enough. As technological and digital media literacy increases, people can discern the information they obtain through media.
“People no longer entirely trust and depend on the media, so the potential for conflict is smaller,” said Dr. Arfani.
Dr. Abdul Gaffar Karim, lecturer at the UGM Department of Politics and Government, supports the view of a calmer election atmosphere.
He mentioned that the support battles and polarization for the 2014 and 2019 elections began heating up long before the elections took place, which is not the case for this election.
“It’s not like that now. It is calmer compared to 2014,” Dr. Karim stated at the same event.
Danger of Political Dynasties and Democracy Erosion
During a casual discussion with local and national media journalists, both UGM experts shared their views on various election issues, ranging from the possibility of a two-round presidential election to the significance of the role of political party leaders to political dynasties.
Regarding the latter, Dr. Karim revealed that such a phenomenon can be observed in many countries and different eras.
Political dynasties occur when the opportunity and direct experience to learn politics are enjoyed by descendants of those already involved in politics. While this is a privilege, he emphasized that the focus should be on how the candidacy process unfolds.
“The issue is not the political dynasty but how the political dynasty is made possible. In developed countries, this can happen without manipulation. In Indonesia, it’s somewhat less healthy,” he expressed.
The issue of political dynasties and various others highlights the public spotlight on the state, as seen by Dr. Karim. However, he noted that the potential vertical conflict between the state and the public is relatively low, especially considering recent trends in the past few years.
While we should be grateful for the minimal conflict, the reason behind it is disheartening, according to Dr. Karim: the public isn’t well consolidated.
“The state is very consolidated, while the public isn’t. There’s a small conflict at the elite level, but they always quickly find ways to reconcile and negotiate,” he added.
Reflecting on global phenomena, he warned about the danger of democracy erosion without a visible public movement, leading to inadequate opposition. He emphasized that this issue needs attention and significant discussion behind the 2024 election buzz.