Pro-Democracy Activists and the State: The Destruction of Indonesia’s Anti-Graft Agency under Jokowi Administration

Dr. Robertus Robet2,3, Mr. Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir1,2

1Asia Institute, University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, 2State University of Jakarta, East Jakarta, Indonesia, 3Centre for Law, Islam and Society, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

This paper reveals the internal contradictions within civil society in Indonesia’s democracy. By extending on the Gramscian tradition, we show how civil society activists can be instrumental in advancing the interest of predatory elites at the expense of the democratic agenda. This involves the social process of introducing and legitimising civil society activists in formal, official politics. This is obvious particularly from the recent case of the destruction of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) where the pro-government activists contribute in justifying the move. They opposed the widespread public opinion that believes the new KPK’s commissioners with poor track records and the new KPK law that trims key agency’s capacities in eradicating corruption as a systematic way to undermine anti-corruption agendas. Even when the public disappointment has been expressed through student demonstrations taken place in almost all major cities, pro-government activists did not reinforce alliance with the movement to challenge corrupt political interests from inside the system. They instead accused the movement of being infiltrated by reactionary populist forces. This case illustrates that resource plundering continues to be the dominant interests that constitute the work of public institutions despite massive pro-democracy activists’ infiltration. Instead of extending their civil society roots to advance reform agendas from inside the system, the unconsolidated activists-turned-politicians predominantly have taken part in hindering democratisation and serving predatory interests. This argument stands in contrast to Tocquevillian analysis that glorifies the role of civil society activists that attempt to reform from within despite their fragmentation.


Dr. Robertus Robet is the head of sociology at the State University of Jakarta (UNJ) and a visiting scholar at the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society (CILIS) at the University of Melbourne.

Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir is a PhD candidate in politics at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. He is also lecturer at the Department of Sociology, State University of Jakarta and a research associate at LabSosio, Sociological Research Centre, Universitas Indonesia.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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