Democracy without Accountability: Promiscuous Power Sharing and Presidential Domineering in Indonesia


Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 4:10pm to 5:30pm


124 Mount Auburn, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

Daniel SlaterDan Slater, University of Chicago

About the Seminar
The fall of Indonesia’s New Order regime in 1998 set the stage for competitive elections, but not necessarily for competitive elites. Political elites primarily responded to democratic transition by promiscuously sharing power, not vigorously competing for it. By carving up the cabinet among all significant parties, they constructed what amounted to a party cartel. This threatened to stifle party opposition and effectively immunize party elites from accountability to Indonesian voters. The introduction of direct presidential elections in 2004 disrupted this initial party cartel, but did not necessarily destroy it. Cross-party networks and norms against excluding fellow elites who wish to share executive power appear to remain entrenched. Despite having held three admirably free and fair national elections, Indonesia continues to confront an “accountability trap” between party collusion and the dysfunctional pattern of democratic politics most structurally prone to displace it: presidential domineering.

About Dan Slater
Dan Slater is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. His book manuscript examining how divergent historical patterns of contentious politics have shaped variation in state power and authoritarian durability in seven Southeast Asian countries, titled Ordering Power: Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia, was published in the Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics series in 2010. He is also a co-editor of Southeast Asia in Political Science: Theory, Region, and Qualitative Analysis (Stanford University Press, 2008), which assesses the contributions of Southeast Asian political studies to theoretical knowledge in comparative politics. His published articles can be found in disciplinary journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, American Journal of Sociology, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, International Organization, and Studies in Comparative International Development, as well as more area-oriented journals such as Indonesia, Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, and the Taiwan Journal of Democracy. He has recently received four best-article awards and two best-paper awards from various organized sections of the American Political Science Association and American Sociological Association.

Democracy Seminar Series
The Democracy Seminar Series brings distinguished speakers to Harvard Kennedy School for the academic year to address critical challenges facing democratic governance.