Politics, media and governance


Fifteen years after Indonesia began its transition to becoming the world’s third most populous democracy, democratic governance in the country has recorded remarkable achievements. For example, Indonesia is now judged by international agencies such as Freedom House to be the most democratic country in Southeast Asia. At the same time, it is widely acknowledged that the quality of Indonesia’s democratic institutions is undermined by various factors, especially the ubiquity of patronage distribution as a mode of organising political life. As a result, those institutions frequently experience serious problems in formulating and implementing policy. While few scholars detect signs of that the survival of Indonesian democracy is threatened in the short term, matters of democratic quality remain paramount.

Research at the Indonesian Project covers a broad range of the critical issues regarding democratic governance and politics in contemporary Indonesia. Major research projects focus on critical institutions, such as the presidency, parties and parliaments. Others focus on underlying social dynamics, in areas such as religion and ethnicity, and their interaction with the political sphere, including through media (mainstream press or social media).

Current research projects

  • Political party financing and reform
  • Decentralisation
  • Political clientelism, patronage politics and vote buying
  • The politics of Islam in democratic Indonesia
  • Media and politics

Selected publications

  • Lewis, BD & A Hendrawan. 2018. The impact of majority coalitions on local government spending, service delivery, and corruption in Indonesia. European Journal of Political Economy (accepted and forthcoming).
  • Lewis, BD. 2018. Local government form in Indonesia: Tax, expenditure, and efficiency effects. Studies in Comparative International Development 53(1): 24-46.
  • Lewis, BD. 2018. Endogenous district magnitude and political party fragmentation in subnational Indonesia: A research note. Electoral Studies 55(October): 136-45.
  • Aspinall, E & W Berenschot. 2019. Democracy for Sale: Elections, Clientelism, and the State in Indonesia. Cornell University Press.
  • Aspinall, E. 2018. Democratization: travails and achievements. In Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Indonesia. Routledge, pp. 83-94.
  • Mietzner, M. 2018. Fighting illiberalism with illiberalism: Islamist populism and democratic deconsolidation in Indonesia. Pacific Affairs 91(2): 261-82.
  • Mietzner, M & B Muhtadi. 2018. Explaining the 2016 Islamist mobilization in Indonesia: Religious intolerance, militant groups and the politics of accommodation. Asian Studies Review 42(3): 479-97.
  • Fealy, G. 2017. Indonesian terrorism in 2016. In J Carroll (ed), ASPI Counterterrorism Yearbook 2017. ASPI Australia, pp. 18-25.
  • Tapsell, R. 2017. Media Power in Indonesia: Oligarchs, Citizens and the Digital Revolution. London: Rowman & Littlefield International.
  • Jurriëns, E & R Tapsell. 2017. Digital Indonesia: Connectivity and Divergence. Singapore: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.