Using the "F" Word: Federalism in Indonesia's Decentralization Discourse

Author(s): Gabriele Ferrazzi

Indonesia cast off Dutch-imposed federalism in favor of a unitary state. Soeharto's centralization madefederalism taboo in the New Order. In the current reform period, however, the concept is re-emerging, but federalism has yet to be discussed in an open, inclusive, and balanced manner. Decentralization policy is focused on the district, neglecting the political demands of the larger province. This policy is accompanied by a confused and misleading official discourse that is consistent with the ideology of power retention and maintenance of patrimonial governance. As a result of greater democratization of the polity, federalism is slowly entering official discourse. Although its prospects in the short term remain dim, support may grow for federal principles within Indonesia's unitary structure.