Democracy Decorum

How strange it is that Bali hosts an annual forum about democracy when it is an island that is far from being democratic. World leaders arrived in Bali this week to chat with host President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono about developing democratic principles globally.

Indonesia even waded into the fermenting showdown on the Korean Peninsula this week after the North raised tensions with its deadly shelling of the south. This country might be better suited to addressing its own democratic concerns before attending to the problems of others.

In Bali votes for politicians standing in elections routinely go to whichever party most showers residents of banjars (communities) with money. Indeed, members of the electorate proudly tell the press they will vote for whichever candidate provides them with the most cash. It is a similar adverse scene right around the country, and elected leaders who tell themselves and others that this is not the case are not being honest. 

This is the true story of our supposed democratic nation: it is a story of a national sham in which our leaders hoodwink the international community into thinking that ours is a progressive society. The more than three decades of dictatorship we endured have given way to rampant money politics at village level. Until the Election Commission ensures that this has no place at the ballot box, democracy in Indonesia will remain a pretence.

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