Jokowi’s decree on civil organisations

Photo: Republic of Korea/CC BY-SA 2.0

Why is democratic Jokowi returning to dictatorship style government under Suharto?


Indonesian President Joko Widodo signed a government regulation to expedite disbanding “illegal” civil societies in July.

These “illegal offences” include opposing Indonesia’s national ideology Pancasila, and engaging a blasphemous act against an officially recognised religious group.

Under the old regulations, the Government needed to issue multiple notices and petition to the courts, applying to revoke the legal status. The society would then have the right to represent itself in the Indonesian court of law.

The new regulation gives the government the right to skip the court process, revoking the organisation’s status singlehandedly. One target is the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), an affiliate of the global Hizb-ut Tahrir (Party of Liberation) movement advocating for the establishment of a global Islamic caliphate.

The HTI has quite a significant followers in moderate Indonesia. This is seen as a national risk under the Jokowi administration. HTI also participated in the campaign to bring down Ahok, the Christian Chinese Jakarta mayor.

It is easy to condemn these new regulations for undermining freedom of association. Indonesians would remember the dictatorship decades between 1966 to 1998 under President Suharto, when he used a government decree to ban the Indonesian Communist Party.

At the moment, it remains unclear if this regulation will be used to control other civil organisations. However, it is now clear that Jokowi’s decision to open the Pandora’s box will likely endanger his legacy as one of Indonesia’s most popular democratic presidents.