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Democratization of Local Government (Decentralization)

Far-reaching “big bang” decentralization reforms in Indonesia and the Philippines have opened up a very dynamic field for studying changes in local service delivery, governance performance and power structures. More specifically research questions include the methodological intricacies of measuring these changes, processes of elite circulation, intergovernmental budgetary relations, civil-military relations at the provincial level and the reconstruction of local cultural traditions as a strategy of legitimizing claims for local leadership. The aim is to develop a theoretical model that captures the functioning of economic and political subsystems in their dual interaction with historical and cultural contexts through quantitative econometric analysis.

Decentralization and Public Service Delivery in Indonesia


PhD candidates: Bambang Sjahrir Putra and Antonio Farfán Vallespín
Department:          Department of Economics
Funding: BMBF (November 2009-November 2012) and Promotionsstipendium nach dem Landesgraduiertenförderungsgesetz (LGFG) Baden-Württemberg (May 2008-November 2009)


This research project analyzes the impact of decentralization on the evolution economic and social development in Indonesia.  The development and distribution of public service delivery is a relevant policy issue in a developing country as big and as diverse as Indonesia.  Theoretically, decentralization can be beneficial for a country with heterogeneous preferences and sufficient resources mobility.  Decentralization brings decision-making power closer to the constituents and therefore can make public services more efficient if we assume that local governments are benevolent.  In a developing country such as Indonesia, however, resources are not fully mobile, a sufficient monitoring system is not yet in place and accountability mechanism is far from being effective.  These factors can hinder decentralization from being beneficial and make it prone to corruption and elite capture.  The impact of decentralization is evaluated by observing the quantity and quality of public services. This research attempts to provide theoretical and empirical evidence that would show how decentralization can affect the dynamic of public service delivery and socio-economic development.  Ultimately the study will try to answer whether Indonesia has benefitted from decentralization and what are the determinants of the success or the failure and how Indonesia can improve or benefit more from it.


The Rise of Oligarchy in Contemporary Indonesia: Case Studies of Local Governor Elections in North Sumatra and East Java in 2008


PhD Candidate: Panji Anugrah Permana
Department: Department of Political Science, University of Freiburg
Duration: October 2009 - September 2012


After more than three decades of the New Order Regime, Indonesia has embarked on a range of political changes. One of the most crucial changes in the new democratic order is a far-reaching and radical decentralization scheme, by many scholars dubbed as the “big bang” decentralization. An important democratizing dimension of decentralization is the direct election of local chief executive through local elections since 2005. The preliminary observation shows that local established elites have been quite resilient and are still able to defend their elevated political role even under the new democratic conditions. Local elections have not produced new, alternative leadership out of the existing one. The gives rise to the question as to what extent local elections as an embodiment of democracy could be coupled with the rise of un-democratic forces such as political gangsters, local bosses, and political brokers? How did the predators and the old elites build their alliances, how did they adjust to the new democratic system and how did their coalition manage to succeed in electoral contestation? What are the consequences of these tendencies for the consolidation of Indonesia’s democracy? Drawing from democratic transition literature, decentralization debates, elite theory and patron-client research, this study seeks to identify the dynamics in elite competition and elite circulation at the local level. Empirical research will be conducted through comparative method in two provinces (North Sumatra and East Java). The study promises novel empirical insights into a study about significant relevance for the consolidation of Indonesia’s fledgling democracy.    

The Reconfiguration of Indonesian Decentralization: An Historical Institutionalist  Study on Intergovernmental Power Relations and Resource Allocation


PhD candidate:

Zuliansyah P. Zulkarnain

Department:         Department of Political Science, University of Freiburg
Funding:Gov. of Indonesia


The Indonesian big bang decentralization of 1999, which was initiated by the collapse of the New Order regime in 1998, has changed the nature of the Indonesian government from centralized government to decentralized government. To date the process of decentralization reform is still continuing in order to overcome conflict of authority between levels of government, and the discontent of sub-national governments on the design of fiscal allocation. However, most of the policies and studies on decentralization show less concern on the political context and political interaction in the process of institutional change and formation of intergovernmental relations. By utilizing a Historical Institutional perspective, this research aims to explore how the political context, power relations, and actors’ maneuvers determine institutional change of intergovernmental power relations, and influence the policy of fiscal allocation. A causal tracing process approach is being used to analyze the causal mechanism in the process of decentralization reform along the path of change since 1999 up to 2009. Methodologically, the within-case study is applied to elucidate how institutional change and formation took place in each period of reform, whereas cross-case studies intend to explicate how and why power relations and actors’ maneuvers create a discrepancy of fiscal allocation among the regions. As a protocol of cross-case studies, this research selects two provincial governments i.e. the provinces of Riau and East Kalimantan as comparable cases.

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