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Impunity: The black mark against Indonesia's democracy

Since Suharto seized power in Indonesia in October 1965, impunity has been deeply entrenched in Indonesia. Although the fall of the dictator in May 1998 led to the introduction of the basic mechanisms of democracy, it has done nothing to end the scourge of impunity.

The 2009 elections have emphatically returned President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to power and he now has another opportunity to add more substance to the democratic transition by addressing the fundamental problem posed by the absence of accountability for serioushuman rights crimes.

Aceh elections: A foregone conclusion

General elections in Indonesia are held every five years, the most recent one being in April 2009. But this time round, the elections in Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra were very different. For the first time, the Acehnese voted in free elections after almost three decades of conflict. The former rebel movement GAM had transformed itself into a political party and fielded its own candidates in the local elections.

A Victory for Mainstream Politics in Indonesia

Organising elections in huge countries like India and Indonesia is a logistical nightmare. Both countries held general elections in April, which proceeded relatively peacefully despite the many flaws. Although it is widely accepted that holding general elections is the easiest part of the democratic process, Indonesia is today regarded as the third largest democracy in the world. It is only ten years since it shook itself free of a 32-year authoritarian regime and rejoined the ranks of the world’s democratic regimes.

Indigenous Papuans Could Become a Minority in the Papuan Regional Representative Assembly (DPRP)

In essence, Special Autonomy (Otonomi Khusus, OTSUS) is simple: its introduction to Papua clearly meant siding with, protecting and empowering the rights of the indigenous Papuan people in every aspect of life as well as developing Papua (the provinces of Papua and West Papua), including in political affairs. It is for this reason that a number of articles were included in Law No. 21, 2001 which specifically regulate the political rights of the indigenous Papuan people.

Human Rights Defenders’ Pledge

This year’s elections raise a number of questions about the future for human rights in Indonesia. Chief among them are what are the parties’ and candidates’ policies on human rights and what is the public’s attitude towards candidates suspected of involvement in human rights violations. A recent congress of human rights defenders has issued a pledge that sets out a number of concerns and recommendations. An article published by United Press International proposes a human rights agenda for Indonesia.

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Women in Parliament: Quotas and Beyond

Elections in Indonesia are now often regarded as genuine ‘festivals of democracy’, events to be celebrated after more than the three decades of dictatorship when elections were rigged and the outcome was always predictable. As the 2009 elections draw near and the hustle and bustle of election fever intensifies, a question in many people’s minds is: Will women win a larger share of the seats than in the two elections that followed Suharto’s downfall?

The Rise and Fall of Military Candidates in the Indonesian Elections

Elections are an indication of several things: the popularity or otherwise of the government as well as other political trends. In a complex country like Indonesia, they also involve efforts by groups within the power elite to secure victory or by those how have lost out to make a comeback. Since the fall of Suharto in 1998, the military elite have lost much of their political clout and are now officially excluded from the political arena. It is therefore no accident that many retired officers, in particular army generals, are keen to return to the political arena.

The Multi-Choice Elections

2009 will be an important year for reformasi in Indonesia, which began in 1998 after the downfall of the dictatorial Suharto regime. On 9 April 2009, elections will be held for the Indonesian Parliament, the DPR (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, People’s Representative Assembly), the DPD (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, Regional Representatives Council) and provincial assemblies. Three months later, the first round of direct elections will be held for the President and Vice-President. No fewer than 38 political parties will participate in the legislative elections.

Papua in a Cycle of Conflict: Violence is still occurring

There seems to be no end to conflict and violence in Papua. Discussions about the situation always focus on the problem of conflict, which only goes to show that something is amiss in the most easterly part of Indonesia.

The many conflicts that occurred in the four months from April to July 2009 show that Papua never seems able to rid itself of the language of conflict. The violence has been an integral part of central government policy, particularly before and after the recent parliamentary and presidential elections.