The paper discusses democratisation practiced in Surakarta, Indonesia, which has been claimed by many experts as a municipality with “best practices” of democratic local governance in Indonesia. Their analyses focus on the actors and claim that participation is a possible way of crafting stable democracy. This participation in turn, they suggest, is a result of decentralisation which thus strengthen local democracy. Presenting the civil society participation and the decentralisation in the city of Surakarta, this paper shows that what actually happens is otherwise. It argues that the rise of popular participation was rooted in contentious local politics. Besides, the constitution of the new forms of popular representation are not supported by, and produced within, a clear ideological framework from the people in Surakarta.