Indonesia first started as a Dutch colony in the 17th century until Japan gained control of the islands from 1942 to 1945. Shortly after World War II, Indonesia declared its independence after years disputing with the Netherlands.
Indonesia’s first leader, Sukarno, initially advocated for personal freedoms after the country gained sovereignty but, as time passed, he began to use his power to take away rights to make himself president for life. Sukarno was eventually ousted in a military coup led by Suharto, a general who becomes the country’s next leader. Suharto was responsible for the deaths of up to 1 million Communists and suspected Communists n his efforts to rid Indonesia of socialist influence. He resigned in 1998 after large riots took place against him. Later presidents gained influence doing very little to address the mistakes made by past leaders or their own current issues with human rights abuses.
Joko Widodo and Anti-establishment Populism
Indonesia’s current president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodok, openly identified himself as a technocratic populist during his campaign, believing in bureaucratic reform to limit the power of the elites. He promised to advocate for better economic policies to help alleviate average citizens as well as addressing and making efforts to stop human rights violations in the regions. Jokowi’s decision-making and campaign messages show connections between anti-establishment populism in which hard-working citizens are considered the majority and must be protected. This characteristic is broad but helps explain why Jokowi promised reform to a general audience who are members of the religious, gender, and ethnic majority. He was disapproving of past government officials, trying to create a new bureau regime.
While Jokowi has not actively targeted any group of people, he has avoided trying to solve current rights abuses on religious minorities, child marriage, native Papuans, and Indonesia’s LGBTQIA+ community. His silence on matters that affect multiple groups of minorities and individuals break his initial campaign promises to advocate for better human rights.