Skip to main content

Photo: “September2019jakartademo3“, by JahlilMA, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Hue modified from the original

Mietzner, Marcus. “Fighting illiberalism with illiberalism: Islamist populism and democratic deconsolidation in Indonesia.” Pacific Affairs 91, no. 2 (2018): 261-282.


The global rise of populist campaigns against democratic governments has revived the long-standing scholarly debate on how democracies can best defend themselves against anti-democratic challenges. While some view an aggressive militant democracy approach as the most effective option, others propose accommodation of populist actors and voters. Others again suggest a merging of the two paradigms. This article analyzes how the government of Indonesian President Jokowi has responded to the unprecedented Islamist-populist mobilization in the capital Jakarta in late 2016. Unsystematically mixing elements of all available options, Jokowi’s administration pursued a criminalization strategy against populists that violated established legal norms, and launched vaguely targeted but patronage-oriented accommodation policies. As a result, the government’s attempt to protect the democratic status quo from populist attacks turned into a threat to democracy itself. Indonesian democracy, I argue, is now in a slow but perceptible process of deconsolidation.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.