Intolerant Democrat Syndrome: The Problem of Indonesian Democratic Consolidation

Saiful Mujani


Indonesia underwent democratization after more than 20 years (1998–2020), but many studies conclude that the country’s democracy is not consolidated and suffered a setback, at least in the last five years. An increase in political intolerance in society is believed to be the cause of this setback. However, studies on Indonesian political tolerance are biased and thus do not reflect actual conditions of general tolerance. This study offers a new unbiased strategy called “content-controlled measures of political tolerance” in the research on political tolerance. This strategy has been used in a series of national public opinion surveys for a relatively long period (2004–2019) and is a source of scarce data for this study. Results present a new finding that preference for democracy, as a measure of democratic consolidation at the attitudinal level, is not accompanied by political tolerance. In fact, political tolerance weakens the consolidation of democracy, which is a symptom of a condition that the author calls the “intolerant democrat syndrome.” In this syndrome, preference for democracy is hampered by political tolerance and vice versa. This syndrome makes the consolidation of Indonesian democracy difficult. Further research on the causes of the emergence of this syndrome is necessary; however, the author suspects that the current constitution contributes systematically to this syndrome.


Democratic consolidation; political tolerance; intolerant democrats; constitution; Indonesia

Full Text:



Almond, Gabriel A., Sidney. Verba 1963. Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Aspinall, Edward, Diego Fossati, Burhanuddin Muhtadi, and E. Bourton. 2020. “Elites, Masses, and Democratic Decline in Indonesia.” Democratization 27 (4): 5–18.

Aspinall, Edward, and Marcus Mietzner. 2010. “Problems of Democratization in Indonesia: An Overview.” In Problems of Democratization in Indonesia: Elections, Institutions, and Society, ed. Edward Aspinall and Marcus Mietzner. Singapore: ISEAS, 1–20.

Badan Pusat Statistik. 2010. Sensus Penduduk 2010.

Byrd, Anthony R. 2017. “Interpreting ISIS: Four Recent Works on the History and Strategy of the Islamic State.” Review of Middle East Studies 51 (2): 240–8.

Dahl, Robert A. 1956. A Preface to Democratic Theory. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Dahl, Robert A. 1971. Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Dahl, Robert A. 1997. “Development and Democratic Culture.” In Consolidating the Third Wave of Democracy: Themes and Perspectives, ed. Larry Diamond, Marc. F. Plattner, Yun-han Chu, and Hung-mao Tien. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 34–9.

Duch, Raymond M., and James L. Gibson. 1992. “’Putting Up With’ Fascists in Western Europe: A Comparative, Cross Level Analysis of Political Tolerance.” The Western Political Quarterly 45: 237–73.

Ellison, R. E. 2010. “Nationalism, Islam, ‘Secularism’ and the State in Contemporary Indonesia.” Australian Journal of International Affairs 64 (3): 328–43.

Fealy, Greg. 2011. “Indonesian Politics in 2011: Democratic Regression and Yudhoyono's Regal Incumbency.” Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies 47 (3) 333–53.

Foa, Roberto Stegan, and Yascha Mounk. 2016. “The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect.” Journal of Democracy 27 (3): 5–17.

Freedom House. 2020. “Freedom in the World 2020: Indonesia.”

Geertz, Clifford. 1960. The Religion of Java. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Gerges, Fawaz A. 2016. A History of ISIS. Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Gibson, James L. 1998. “Putting Up with Fellow Russians: An Analysis of Political Tolerance in Fledgling Russian Democracy.” Political Research Quarterly 51 (1): 37–68.

Hadiz, Vedi R. 2017. “Indonesia’s Year of Democratic Setbacks: Toward a New Phase of Deepening Illiberalism?” Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies 53 (3): 261–78.

Hall, Peter A., and Rosemary C.R. Taylor. 1996. “Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms.” Political Studies 44 (5) : 936–57.

Inglehart, Ronald. 2016. “The Danger of Deconsolidation: How Much Should We Worry?” Journal of Democracy 27: 18–23.

Iskandar, Pranoto. 2016. “The Pancasila Delusion.” Journal of Contemporary Asia 46 (4): 723–35.

Lamb, Kate. 2017. “Beware the Red Peril: Indonesia Still Fighting Ghosts of Communism.” The Guardian. October 1.

Liddle, R. William and Saiful Mujani. 2013. “Indonesian Democracy: From Transition to Consolidation.” In Democracy and Islam in Indonesia, ed. Mirjam Künkler and Alfred Stepan. New York: Columbia University Press, 24–50.

Linz, Juan J., and Alfred Stepan. 1996. Problems of Democratic Transitions and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Mansur, Ali. 2020. “Isu Gerakan PKI Muncul di Tengah Badai Covid-19.” May 28.

Mappapa, Pasti Liberti. 2019. “Mimpi Darul Islam yang Tak Padam.” August 17.

Menchik, Jeremy. 2014. “Productive Intolerance: Godly Nationalism in Indonesia.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 56 (3): 591–621.

Menchik, Jeremy. 2016. Islam and Democracy in Indonesia: Tolerance without Liberalism. London, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Menchik, Jeremy. 2019. “Moderate Muslims and Democratic Breakdown in Indonesia.” Asian Studies Review 43 (3): 415–33.

Menchik, Jeremy, and Thomas B. Pepinsky. 2018. “Islam, Identity, and Organizational Roots of Political Tolerance.” Social Science Research Network Paper.

Mietzner, Marcus. 2018. “Fighting Illiberalism with Illiberalism: Islamist Populism and Democratic Deconsolidation in Indonesia.” Pacific Affairs. 91 (2): 261–82.

Mietzner, Marcus. 2020. “Rival Populism and Democratic Crisis in Indonesia: Chauvinists, Islamists, and Technocrats.” Australian Journal of International Affairs 74 (2): 1–19.

Mietzner, Marcus, and Burhanuddin 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.

Mortimer, Rex. 2006. Indonesian Communism under Sukarno. Sheffield, UK: Equinox Publishing.

Mujani, Saiful. 2019. “Explaining Religio-Political Tolerance Among Muslims: Evidence from Indonesia.” Studia Islamika 26 (2): 319–51.

Norris, Pippa. 1999. “Conclusions: The Growth of Critical Citizens and Its Consequences.” In Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government, ed. Pippa Norris. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 257–72.

North, Douglas C., and Barry R. Weingast. 1989. “Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England.” The Journal of Economic History 49 (4): 803–32.

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries. 2020. “Tolerance (Noun).”

Pepinsky, Thomas B., R. William Liddle, and Saiful Mujani. 2018. Piety and Public Opinion: Understanding Indonesian Islam. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ramage, Douglas E. 1995. Politics in Indonesia: Islam, Democracy, and the Ideology of Tolerance. New York: Routledge.

Rizki, Ramadhan. 2018. “Menhan Sebut Ada 400 Warga Indonesia Bergabung ISIS. CNN Indonesia.” July 17.

Rizqa, Hasanul. 2017. “Sejarah Lahirnya Hizbut Tahrir, dari Timur Tengah Hingga Indonesia.” May 8.

Sujana, I Nyoman, Komang Arini Setyawati, and Ni Made Puspasutari Ujanti. 2018. “The Existence of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Community in the Perspective of a State Based on Pancasila.” Mimbar Hukum 30 (1): 127–39.

Sullivan, John L., and John E. Transue. 1999. “Psychological Underpinnings of Democracy: a Selective Review of Research on Political Tolerance, Interpersonal Trust, and Social Capital.” Annual Review of Psychology 50 (1): 625–50.

Sullivan, John L., James Piereson, and George E. Marcus. 1993. Political Tolerance and American Democracy. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Suryadinata, Leo, Evi Nurvidya Arifin, and Aris Ananta. 2003. Indonesia's Population: Ethnicity and Religion in a Changing Political Landscape. Singapore: ISEAS.

Van Dijk, C. 1981. Rebellion under the Banner of Islam: The Darul Islam in Indonesia. Leiden: Brill.

Vebriyanto, Widian. 2020. “Jimly Asshiddiqie: Bukan Hanya TAP MPRS, Larangan Komunisme Juga Termaktub Di UU 27/1999.” RMOL.ID. June 16.

Wijaya, Hendri Yulius. 2020. Intimate Assemblages: The Politics of Queer Identities and Sexualities in Indonesia. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan.

Williams, Michael R., and Aaron P. Jackson. 2015. “A New Definition of Tolerance” Issues in Religion and Psychotherapy. 37 (1): 1–5.

Warburton, Eve, and Edward Aspinall. 2019. “Explaining Indonesia’s Democratic Regression: Structure, Agency and Popular Opinion.” Contemporary Southeast Asia 41 (2): 255–85. DOI: 10.1355/cs41-2k



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Saiful Mujani