Reconsidering Consociational Democracy: Twenty Years of Indonesian Democracy

Nanang Indra Kurniawan and Wawan Mas’udi

Universitas Gadjah Mada Department of Politics and Government, Indonesia

How does consociational politics play a role in accommodating social and political cleavages in a society? How does power sharing facilitate sustainability of democracy? These questions have occupied the debate of democracy in post 2019 election in Indonesia. Following the growing tension due to political polarization during electoral processes, the elected president, Joko Widodo, embraces actors from various political spectrums into the government as part of his un-ideological power sharing strategy to ease down the tension. President Joko Widodo formed cabinet to accommodate almost all political cleavages including political opponents, old-class politics, emerging elites, and parochial representative (religion, ethnicity, and Java–non-Java categories). Various literatures in political science have been debating the role of consociation in democracy particularly in seeing whether power sharing is the fundamental element of democratic practices or, in reverse, the problem for democracy. On the one hand the proponents of consociation underline the importance of power sharing in a politically divided society to provide political stability, foundation of democratic development, and to avoid conflicts. On the other hand, the opponents argue that consociational politics encourages a politics of immobilism and reinforces elite dominance within their community as the elites who are accommodated within consociational politics are those who have vested interests in maintaining collective antagonism (O’Leary, 2012). This current phenomenon in Indonesia reminds us to the classic debate between Harry J. Benda and Herbert Feith, on whether the development of democracy should reconcile with Indonesia social context or it should be put in the principle of universalism. This paper will analyze current development of Indonesian democracy from the lens of consociation to understand the extent to which power sharing resolves political conflicts. We will provide critical analysis on the limits of consociational politics and its impacts on the sustainability of democracy in Indonesia.


Nanang Indra Kurniawa is a lecturer at Department of Politics and Government in Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia. Between 2001 and 2006, he involved in NGO activism at Institute for Research and Empowerment (IRE), Yogyakarta, as a researcher. His research focuses on natural resource politics, social movement, and state-making. He obtained his PhD from University of Melbourne with dissertation research on participatory mapping of customary land and state-making. He is currently the Program Coordinator of Resource Governance in Asia Pacific at Department of Politics and Government, Universitas Gadjah Mada.
Wawan Mas’udi is lecturer at the Department of Politics and
Government, Faculty of Social and Political Science, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia. He completed PhD at The Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne. His thesis is on Jokowi’s Path to Political Legitimacy in Solo. His main interest is on Political Populism and Welfare Politics. His most recent publications are: Welfare Politics in Indonesia (edited book with Cornelis Lay, Obor, 2018); Programmatic Politics and Voter Preference: The 2017 Election in Kulonprogo (with Nanang Indra Kurniawan, Contemporary South East Asia, 2017); and Creating Leadership Legitimacy in Post-Reform Indonesia (book chapter in Continuity and Change after Indonesia’s Reforms: Contributions to an Ongoing Assessment, ISEAS, 2019).   His current research projects is on Negative Campaign in 2019 Indonesian Presidential Election (collaborative project with Dave McRae, The Asia Institue, Unimelb) and The Indonesian Future Political Leaders (FISIPOL UGM).



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