In The Shadow Of Uncertainty: Navigating Troubled Waters Of Democracy In Pakistan And Indonesia – OpEd


As the dust settles on the electoral battlefields of Pakistan and Indonesia, the aftershocks of what many are calling electoral coups threaten the very bedrock of democracy in these nations. With accusations of fraudulence, manipulation, and underhand tactics swirling, the legitimacy of political parties and the electoral process itself has been thrust into the limelight, raising pivotal questions about the future of democratic governance in South Asia and Southeast Asia.

In Pakistan, the electoral landscape was marred by widespread allegations of vote-rigging and pre-election manipulation, casting a long shadow over the integrity of the political process. Reports indicated an unprecedented level of interference by non-democratic forces, which, according to critics, skewed the playing field in favor of certain political factions. This has not only raised eyebrows but also sparked nationwide protests demanding transparency and fairness. The sheer volume of these protests, involving thousands of citizens across major cities, underscores the depth of disillusionment among the populace.

Indonesia, on the other hand, witnessed its own share of controversy. The 2024 general elections, described as one of the largest democratic exercises globally, with over 200 million eligible voters, were not immune to allegations of electoral malfeasance. Defense minister Prabowo Subianto’s victory, while historic in its vote count, has not been free from scrutiny. Accusations of an “electoral coup” have emerged, pointing towards systemic flaws and potential manipulations within the electoral system itself. The situation was further complicated by the involvement of political dynasties and the military in the electoral fray, blurring the lines between state and party interests.

Alan Ware’s theory of political parties offers a poignant lens through which to view these tumultuous events. He posits that political parties are crucial mediators between the state and society, responsible for translating public will into policy. However, when these parties become entangled in efforts to undermine the electoral process for their own gain, they erode the very democracy they are supposed to uphold. Both countries exemplify how the legitimacy of political parties can be questioned, leading to a crisis of confidence in democratic institutions.

The role of political parties as platforms for collective action and competition for public support, as outlined by Ware, becomes particularly relevant in the context of these elections. In both nations, the outcry over the perceived injustices of the electoral process has galvanized public action and demand for accountability. Yet, the very competition that is supposed to invigorate democracy appears to have been compromised, suggesting that these parties may have strayed far from their foundational roles.

Moreover, the concept of internal democracy within parties, another critical aspect of Ware’s theory, appears to have been sidelined. The emergence of political dynasties in Indonesia and the alleged manipulation by political elites in Pakistan point to a troubling trend of centralization and opacity in decision-making processes within parties. This not only diminishes the role of the general populace in political discourse but also questions the ability of these parties to adapt and respond to societal needs and changes.

The implications of these electoral controversies extend far beyond the immediate outcomes of the elections. They signal a growing mistrust in the mechanisms of democracy, potentially deterring public participation and engagement in future electoral processes. The perception of elections as rigged or unfairly influenced can erode the faith of the electorate in the very concept of voting as a tool for change, leading to apathy and disengagement. This is a dangerous path, as it undermines the principles of accountability and representation that are central to democratic governance.

Furthermore, the international community’s response to these events has been tepid, raising concerns about the global commitment to democratic norms. The lack of a strong, unified stance against electoral manipulation and interference sets a precarious precedent, suggesting that such practices may be tolerated or overlooked for geopolitical or strategic reasons.

As we peer into the future, the shadow cast by the 2024 elections in Pakistan and Indonesia looms large. The potential implications for future elections are grave. If the trends of manipulation, interference, and undermining of the electoral process are not addressed, we may witness a further decline in democratic standards, not just in these nations but globally. The challenge, therefore, lies not only in rectifying the current grievances but also in ensuring that political parties and electoral systems are reformed and strengthened, reinstating the faith of the people in the democratic process.

The road ahead is fraught with challenges, but it is imperative that both Pakistan and Indonesia take decisive steps towards electoral reform and transparency. Only then can the true spirit of democracy be preserved, ensuring that future elections are not just exercises in formality but genuine reflections of the will of the people.

Awais Ahmed

Awais Ahmed is studying for a Master’s in Political Science, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social and Political Science, University of Indonesia

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