Money, Power, and Ideology: Political Parties in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia

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By Marcus Mietzner

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Are political parties the weak link in Indonesia’s young democracy? More pointedly, do they form a giant cartel to suck patronage resources from the state? Indonesian commentators almost invariably brand the country’s parties as corrupt, self-absorbed, and elitist, while most scholars argue that they are poorly institutionalized. This book tests such assertions by providing unprecedented and fine-grained analysis of the inner workings of Indonesian parties, and by comparing them to their equivalents in other new democracies around the world. Contrary to much of the existing scholarship, the book finds that Indonesian parties are reasonably well institutionalized if compared to their counterparts in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and other parts of Asia. There is also little evidence that Indonesian parties are cartelized. But there is a significant flaw in the design of Indonesia’s party system: while most new democracies provide state funding to parties, Indonesia has opted to deny central party boards any meaningful subsidies. As a result, Indonesian parties face severe difficulties in financing their operations, leading them to launch predatory attacks on state resources and making them vulnerable to manipulation by oligarchic interests.

"I have the highest regard for Dr Mietzner. He does not sit around and ruminate from a distance. He spends a lot of time on the ground in Indonesia and has a formidable circle of sources and contacts." - John McBeth

"A pellucid, all-round introduction to the study of political parties in all their aspects that will greatly enhance the understanding of both teachers of the subject and their students, and that will stand up to all sorts of challenges for a considerable time to come." - Niels Mulder

“Mietzner’s arguments are refreshing and stimulating. Using a wealth of interview material and a firm, detailed grasp of the history of the country’s political system, the book is highly recommended for any one wishing to get an inside view of Indonesia’s politics.” - Ward Berenschot

Marcus Mietzner is Senior Lecturer and Fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change, School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, Australian National University.

Asian Studies Association of Australia: Southeast Asian Publications Series
Publication Year: 2013
326 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-768-6, Paperback

NUS Press