IV-2. “Role of the Judiciary in Democratization: Comparison of Thailand and Indonesia” (H25-26 FY2013-2014)

  • Project Leader : Toyama Ayako (Kyoto University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies)
  • Collaborators : Tamada Yoshifumi (Kyoto University, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies)
  • : Okamoto Masaaki (Kyoto University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies)
  • : Nagai Fumio (Osaka City University, Graduate School of Law)
  • : Aizawa Nobuhiro (Kyushu University, Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Global Society)
  • : Miichi Ken (Iwate Prefectural University, Faculty of Policy Studies)
  • : Kawamura Koichi (Institute of Developing Economies (IDE), Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Area Studies Center)

Outline of Research

Currently, many scholars pay attention to the role of the judiciary in democratization. In Southeast Asia, the judiciary has also attracted attention in its political role. For example, the Constitutional Court of Thailand began to gain a major political influence by having resolved two ruling parties. However, strong opposition to the Constitutional Court followed after these judgments. On the contrary, the Constitutional Court of Indonesia has been recognized playing an active role in democratization. Why did such differences occur between these two countries? The purpose of this research is to compare the political backgrounds and institutional designs of the Constitutional Court of the two countries in order to resolve this question.


In order to guarantee the “quality” of emerging democracy of a country, its judiciary is expected to play an important political role. When reviewing the situation in Southeast Asia, Thailand and Indonesia present a marked contrast with respect to democratization. In the 1990s, democratization of Thailand shifted to the consolidation in a relatively short period. However, Thai politics has become unstable due to the judicial decisions of the Constitutional Court that have dissolved the ruling parties twice. As a result of this instability, the army staged a coup in May 2014. On the contrary, Indonesia has been ruled by authoritarian regimes for a long time, but after the Suharto regime collapsed in 1998, democratization made progress. At present, Indonesia has become an ideal model of democratization in ASEAN. In Indonesia, the Constitutional Court is often reviewed to rule neutrally, and to promote the consolidation of electoral politics. After focusing on the differences of institutional designs of the Constitutional Court of the two countries, the research will clarify problems in the political role of judiciary in democracy.

Recently, the role of the judiciary has received much attention in emerging democracies countries, but academically, it is poorly studied. Therefore, this comparative study of the political roles of the judiciary between Indonesia and Thailand is also expected to be able to contribute greatly to the study of democratization in other regions.

Presentation at the Seminar (25/October/2013)

Constitutional Court of Thailand celebrating the Queen’s Birthday