Empirical evidence and argument concerning governance conditions and human resource management practices indicate that since the fall of Soeharto, patronage has remained a defining feature of the governance of the Indonesian state, resulting in a condition of ‘patronage democracy’. Decentralisation together with the symbiotic relationships that can exist between patronage and development assistance have contributed to this. The willingness of factions at the centre to make concessions to competing interests to protect the bases of their own predation (political stability, a unitary state and economic growth); the pervasiveness, inventiveness and tenacity of patronage networks; the politically constrained reach of central anti-corruption institutions; the weight of factional, donor and contractor self-interest; the relative ease with which real intentions can be masked and politically correct appearances can be maintained; and the strength and convenience of (mistaken) neo-institutionalist convictions concerning the efficacy of technocratic reform alone all make it unlikely that patronage will be subjected in the medium term to any greater threats than it has been in the past. It is perhaps still too early to tell whether the patterns of patronage competition are moving the state towards a genuinely representative form of democracy or whether they are dragging it down into the danger zone of governance and economic stagnation. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.