Category Archives: Indonesia

Indonesia – The Old is New Again? Nomination Thresholds for Presidential Candidates

Like most emergent democracies, Indonesia saw a proliferation of political parties and interest groups following democratization even as the country was restructuring its representative institutions, the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR), and the People’s Representatives Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, DPD), into fully elected ones. To control the surge of candidates and parties standing for elections and the subsequent legislative fragmentation, Presidential Election Law, Law No. 42/2008, was passed in 2008 to govern the nomination and election of presidential candidates, while Election Law No. 8, was passed in 2012, to regulate how political parties may stand for legislative elections. Thus, the constraints of Election Law No. 8 included limiting political parties that may contest elections to only those who obtained a threshold of 3.5 percent of the national votes from the previous election.[1]

Perhaps of greater interest is the Presidential Election Law, which limited presidential nominations to parties that received 25 percent of the national vote or 20 percent of the parliamentary seats. To ensure that the thresholds are met, the Presidential Election Law also stipulated that elections for legislative and presidential elections be held at least three months apart. In the following, I track the recent ups and downs of the Presidential Election Law. Briefly, on January 24, 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that the sequencing of elections under the Presidential Election Law violated the constitution and ruled that legislative and presidential elections be held concurrently; however, the Court also left to the legislature to decide if the thresholds would remain. That was decided on July 20, 2017, when the House passed a bill maintaining the thresholds for the presidential elections in 2019.

The Presidential Election Law was challenged at the Constitutional Court in 2013, on the grounds that the Presidential Election law encouraged horse-trading among political parties rather than foster the discipline that underpins responsive or responsible policymaking. If the 2014 elections are any guide, that assessment is not far off-base. Specifically, no parties in the April legislative elections achieved the level of popular support needed to field independently a nominee for the presidential election in July, and that is with a highly popular candidate, then-governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Then-governor Jokowi was so popular that legislative candidates from other political parties used ads featuring the governor.

The resultant legislative results, then, took many by surprise: although the “Jokowi” factor kept the then-governor’s party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), in the lead, it captured only 19 percent of the popular vote, well short of expectations. It meant that the PDI-P needed to form a coalition with partners in order to nominate a presidential candidate for the July elections, as would others. Unsurprisingly, the political jockeying for coalition-partners and the winnable president-vice president team began even before official results were announced. Two nominees emerged: Jokowi and Prabowo Subianto. Jokowi would go on to win the presidential elections, but that win did not stall the opposition coalition.

Indeed, events that followed were concerning for political developments in Indonesia. In particular, clear lines from the political jockeying carried through in the legislature; by the time of the President’s inauguration in October, 2014, the President’s coalition was in the minority. As a result, the President’s agenda was tested and several prominent positions – including House Speaker and Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly – went to the opposition majority coalition.[2] Fortunately for President Jokowi, several reversals occurred over time, so that by January 2016, the Gerindra party of Prabowo Subianto looked like it may be the only party remaining in the erstwhile majority Red-and-White coalition.

President Jokowi has kept a firm majority in the legislature since, so that it is probably not surprising that he championed the proposal to maintain the thresholds. Prabowo Subianto has also maintained a firm interest in politics, and he advocated for the elimination of nomination thresholds. Prabowo and his Gerindra Party have played a decisive – and ultimately victorious – role in the recent gubernatorial election in the capital city of Jakarta, and he is widely expected to use that win as springboard for a 2019 presidential run.

With the thresholds in place, minor party candidates definitely have their work cut out for them. Threshold or not, Jokowi and Prabowo look set to compete again for the presidency in 2019.

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[1] For additional conditions, see Yap, O. Fiona, 2014. “Indonesia – The 2014 Elections: Political parties and Presidential nominees.” Presidential Power, http://presidential-power.com/?p=643 <Accessed 26 July 2017>

[2] Yap, O. Fiona, 2015. “Indonesia – The President, Awesome Indonesia, and the Red-White Opposition.” Presidential Power, http://presidential-power.com/?p=3084 <Accessed 26 July 2017>

 

Indonesia – The Jakarta Gubernatorial Election, Politics, and the 2019 Presidential Elections

Elections in the capital cities of Asia are often seen as bellwethers for national elections, and elections in Jakarta, Indonesia, are no exception. Still, there is reason to consider the 2017 gubernatorial elections in Jakarta as deserving of particular attention. For one, the incumbent candidate, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, was a highly popular governor who took over the mantle from a highly popular predecessor, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, when the latter won the presidential elections in 2014. Both men are considered to break political traditions, so that their respective popularities underpinned hope for wide support of political change. The electoral defeat of Ahok, then, by former education minister, Anies Baswedan, may have dimmed those hopes. In the following, I discuss how this gubernatorial election may foreshadow politics and the 2019 presidential elections in Indonesia.

It is notable that Ahok and Anies are each backed by political opponents at the national level. Ahok is supported by the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), of which President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is a member and former President Megawati Sukarnoputri is chair. Anies was previously a supporter of President Jokowi, and served as his education minister between 2014-2016; however, in the 2017 contest, he drew support from the legislative opposition, namely the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), whose chair, Prabowo Subianto, was defeated in the 2014 presidential elections, and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamic party. Many will remember the 2014 presidential elections as a hard-fought contest, with Prabowo initially refusing to concede on the quickcount results, and subsequently coalescing the Red-White majority opposition coalition to stymie the agenda of the elected President. Several of the parties in that opposition coalition has since jumped ship join the President’s Awesome Indonesia Coalition; as of May 2016, only Gerindra and PKS remains in the coalition. Political parties are already readying up for the 2019 elections – Golkar has announced its support for the President Jokowi – and there is no mistaking Prabowo’s interest in that election. Anies’ successful election as governor may help Prabowo’s plans, and it is not a stretch for Prabowo to run with a similar strategy, i.e., divide the popular vote over religion. Anies himself sought the support of Islamist groups, including militant groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), known for hard-line stances and attacks against minorities.

The religious cleavage was thrown open in this election: the aggressive effort to charge Ahok with blasphemy against Islam, together with regular reminders of the potential for unrest in a series of protests and rallies against the Chinese Christian governor, led to the significant erosion of Ahok’s huge polling lead. The long and slow trial ended only following the election, with prosecutors dropping the blasphemy charges against Ahok for a lesser charge that carries a possible two-year probation. The damage to Ahok is eclipsed only by the damage to Indonesian politics: home to the world’s largest Muslim population, the election may have witnessed Indonesia’s democratic trajectory sidelined by aggressive hardline tactics used to unseat a popular, successful, non-Islam governor. That does not bode well for the 2019 elections.

Indonesia – The President, Awesome Indonesia, and the Red-White Opposition

A year ago on April 9, 2014, Indonesians went to the polls to partake in one of the largest elections in the world, including 560 seats of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR), 128 seats for the People’s Representatives Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, DPD). That election saw no party win enough legislative seats (threshold 20%) or electoral votes (25% national vote) to independently field a presidential candidate. The three months preceding the presidential elections in July 2014 saw intense political horse-trading as the 12 legislative parties weighed options against the possibility of participating in the winning camp. By the time of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s inauguration in October, clear lines had emerged in the legislature: the Awesome Indonesia coalition supporting President Jokowi, comprising the PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle), Nasdem (National Democrat Party), PAN (National Mandate Party), and Hanura (People’s Conscience Party); and the Red-and-White Opposition Coalition supporting defeated presidential-candidate Prabowo Subianto, comprising six other legislative parties, Gerindra (Party Movement Indonesia Raya), Golkar, PKB (National Awakening Party), PKS (Prosperous Justice Party), PPP (United Development Party), and Democratic Party. With the President’s legislative support-coalition clearly in the minority – 207-seats total against the Opposition coalition’s 353 (although these are in flux, as will be discussed later) – it is timely to ask: has the Opposition Coalition affected the President’s political agenda?

Some symbolic and real losses that have occurred, although not all lasted:

Some reversals that have occurred, limiting the real or potential “damage” of the Red-White Opposition:

On balance, then, the President’s agenda appears to be successfully withstanding the Red-White Opposition Coalition. There is reason to believe that the President will be more successful with time: in particular, two parties of the Red-White Opposition Coalition are suffering significant internal rifts that threaten to change their allegiances. Specifically, the PPP and Golkar appear to have split into pro-Red-White and pro-Awesome-Indonesia factions, with leaders of the respective factions each claiming mandate as the real leaders. Pro-Awesome-Indonesia faction leaders have successfully sought the Justice Minister’s intervention; however, the pro-Red-White factions have successfully sought temporary injunctions against the Justice Minister’s decree recognising the opposing-faction with lawsuits at the State Administrative Court (PTUN). The PTUN has yet to make a final ruling, but has suspended the Justice Minister’s decree recognizing the pro-Awesome-Indonesia faction leaders of the two parties.

Whether the Awesome Indonesia coalition grows from 207 to 246 (with the PPP) or even 337 (with the addition of PPP and Golkar) remains to be seen. One way or another, with the reinstatement of direct local elections for this July, resolutions for the parties – and, consequently, for the respective pro-President and Opposition Coalitions – are not far-off.

East Asia – Presidential Powers and Semi-Presidential Systems

Calls for constitutional revisions have surfaced across four of the presidential and semi-presidential systems in East and Southeast Asia, namely, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The appeals for constitutional changes have arisen for different reasons: in the Philippines, some have raised the possibility in order to extend the tenure of a generally successful and popular president. In Indonesia, it is aimed at improving governability in the face of a fragmented, uncooperative legislature. In South Korea, the option relates to reducing the powers of the executive for greater accountability, a stance advocated by presidential candidates – including current President Park – in the 2012 campaign. Likewise, in Taiwan, constitutional change offers the prospect of constraining the powers of the president. Despite differences in the objectives of change, one reform frequently suggested to replace existing institutional set-up across the countries is the premier-presidential form of semi-presidential system. This raises an interesting question: what is the underlying problem across the countries that the premier-presidential form may resolve?

Despite differences in the objectives, one commonality across the countries is presidentialized parties, where the executive-leader has “considerable independence in the electoral and governing arenas.” [1]According to Samuels and Shugart (2009), presidentialized parties result when the “constitutional structure separates executive and legislative origin and/or survival.” The outcome of the president’s independence manifests differently across the countries: in the Philippines, political parties may rally around strong candidates to ensure continuity; in Indonesia, presidents may be saddled with hostile legislatures; in South Korea and Taiwan, presidents may have few incentives to shift focus away from their personal agendas to the parties.[2]

Clearly, the outcomes depend in part on party organization and party-system development  in the countries. What is less clear is that the premier-presidential form of semi-presidential system will resolve the underlying problem of party weakness. It may behoove these new democracies of the Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan, to consider the outlay of time and effort towards constitutional change.

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[1] Elgie, Robert. 2011.

[2] For another perspective, see Cheibub and Limongi (2014). Cheibub, Jose Antonio and Fernando Limongi. 2014. “The structure of legislative-executive relations: Asia in comparative perspective.” In Comparative Constitutional Law in Asia, ed. Rosalind Dixon and Tim Ginsburg. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing

 

Indonesia – Transparency and Accountability in the Presidential Elections 2014

The 2014 presidential race has turned out to be one of the most competitive since Indonesia’s democratization, and highly revealing in terms of citizens’ active participation in ensuring electoral integrity. The outcome of the presidential race is clearly important, and that will be unveiled in time. In this article, I point out three developments associated with accountability and transparency in the presidential race that deserve attention. They are: (1) the contentious quickcount results; (2) the grassroots mobilization for electoral integrity; and (3) the possible opposition coalition against a Jokowi presidency.

Events so far: Quick count results on July 9, election day, saw several pollsters call the election in favour of Joko Widodo (popularly known as Jokowi), the former governor of Jakarta and PDI-P presidential nominee, but some others called the election in favour of Prabowo Subianto, the founder and presidential nominee of Gerindra. Voter turnout was high: pollsters pegged it at 72 percent to 80 percent. The official results are expected July 22, and challenges may be filed with the Constitutional Court from July 23-July 24. The new president and vice-president is not due to be sworn in until October 20; this late date takes into account a possible run-off in September if the July elections had failed to yield a majority winner.

Quickcount results have generally hewed closely to the final official results; consequently, the disparate outcomes have raised eyebrows. More importantly, many see the contentions over the outcomes – both Presidential camps have declared victory, with Prabowo refusing to concede defeat and, additionally, calling to question the outcomes from seven pollsters – as foreshadowing conflict. As a result, current President SBY as well as the Elections Commission KPU chair have called for restraint until official results are announced. Still, some are calling President SBY’s stance biased, noting the President reversal of the neutral stance of his Democratic Party to an endorsement of Prabowo’s camp as calculated and a play-out of the grudge between the President and PDI-P chair Megawati Soekarnoputri.

polls

http://img.thejakartaglobe.com/2014/07/polls.jpg

Importantly, Indonesians have stepped up in this (possibly) worrisome situation to ensure the integrity of the electoral process: many are witnessing the vote counting process at their respective polling stations, and taking snapshots of the official tally – pictures of the C1 form (the piece of paper summarizing the vote count at each polling station) – and posting on social media to ward off a electoral fraud. Perhaps as further indication of public activism, shares of two companies that are reportedly providing biased quickcount results plunged by more than 6 percent even as the Jakarta Composite Index recorded its highest levels in 13 months.

Such grassroots activism may be valuable not only for electoral integrity but also a possible Jokowi presidency. A previous posting noted the importance of public support for legislative success for a president. A Jokowi presidency is likely to face legislative obstacles: the PDI-P and its coalition partners (NasDem, Hanura and PKPI) will have 207 of 560 House seats while the coalition supporting Prabowo controls 353 seats. If recent events are any indication, the coalition supporting Prabowo is already on track to change legislation in favour of the legislative majority: in particular, a coalition of six parties – Prabowo’s Gerindra and its five coalition partners: the Democratic Party, the Golkar Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the United Development Party (PPP) – have voted to change House rules on the selection of a House Speaker. Until the change, the House Speaker went to the party with the most votes in the legislative election; on July 8, the coalition voted to change the position into an elected one.

There are now rumors that Golkar members are questioning the wisdom of an alliance in the opposition, although parties having second (or third) thoughts have not been unusual in this election (see Democratic Party above, and a previous discussion of the support–retraction-support of the United Development Party (PPP) for Prabowo Subianto). Such variability does not help with party-building, and it may be useful for leaders to be attentive to that effect in an emergent democracy like Indonesia.

At least one prediction appears to have been met: there has been no shortage of election news from Indonesia in 2014.

Indonesia – With preliminary results now in, what lies ahead?

The General Election Commission (KPU) announced recently that the need for the revotes in over 1000 polling stations may delay the official results for the legislative elections, held April 9, 2014, original pegged for May 9. Nevertheless, even without the official results, political jockeying between the parties for coalition-partners and the winnable president-vice president team has commenced, and these may be as intense as the finger-pointing and blame-game that has taken place following the quick count results.

What coalitions are possible and which improbable? Coalitions are necessary given that the quick-count results show none of the parties has received the requisite 25 percent of the national vote or 20 percent of the parliamentary seats to field independently a presidential candidate for the July elections. The top three vote-getters based on the quick-count results are the PDI-P, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, leading with about 19 percent of the popular vote; Golkar with 14.9 percent; and Gerindra with 12 percent. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party edged into the double-digit league with 10 percent of the votes.

The top three parties have all announced their presidential candidates:

  • Jakarta governor, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for the PDI-P;
  • Aburizal Bakrie, business tycoon, for Golkar, the leading party of the Suharto era;
  • Prabowo Subianto, former military lieutenant-general, for Gerindra

Coalition-partners, then, are angling for vice-presidential nomination or cabinet positions.

Polls place Jokowi as the one to beat for the presidential elections but, of course, polls have gotten things wrong before: witness the poll expectations of 30 percent popular vote for the PDI-P for the April elections, and the corresponding pummeling expected for the Islamic parties.

Still, the PDI-P was the first to announce a coalition with NasDem, the National Democrat Party, founded by former Golkar Party member and media mogul Surya Paloh. NasDem is the only new party to be sanctioned by the General Election Commission (KPU) to contest the national elections and received 6.6 percent of the popular vote. NasDem favors former Vice President and Golkar Party member, Jusuf Kolla, as the vice-presidential nominee on the PDI-P coalition ticket, but Jokowi has maintained that nominations and cabinet posts will not be traded for coalition support. With NasDem’s support, PDI-P has passed the threshold for the nomination. Since the coalition with NasDem, the PDI-P has announced a coalition deal with the National Awakening Party, the PKB, founded by former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, although the family of “Gus Dur” has severed ties with the PKB. Talks are reportedly ongoing with another potential coalition partner, the United Development Party (PPP).

The infighting in PPP became almost a sport to watch following the quick-count results. Internal rifts in the party surged to the surface with senior party members voicing their disapproval of the close association of PPP chair, Suryadharma Ali, with Gerindra. In the face of the opposition and growing pressure to step down, Suryadharma Ali pre-empted his detractors by firing them from the party; he also declared his party’s support for Gerindra’s Prabowo Subianto. The party elders followed with their own announcement of Suryadharma Ali’s dismissal from the party. Fortunately for party members, the tit-for-tat retaliations have ended and the party announced a mending of the rifts; less fortunately for Gerindra, as part of the reconciliation, the PPP withdrew endorsement of Pubrabo Subianto and will decide on a candidate to support at the national meeting in early May.

Both Gerindra and Golkar have yet to announce coalition partners, although Gerindra has been in talks with the Islamic Parties, including the Prosperous Justice Party, PKS, as well as the Hanura Party. The PKS was caught in a sex-and-corruption scandal in 2013 that has seen its president jailed and other party elders at risk for similar penalties. Yet, the party lost only about 1 percent of popular support from the previous election. The PKS maintains that Islamic parties need to support a presidential candidate with a “high level of piety.”

Meanwhile, the possible tie-up between Gerindra and Hanura may spell trouble for Golkar and its presidential nominee, Aburizal Bakrie. Golkar has insisted that it will offer up only a presidential candidate, not a running mate; however, with PDI-P’s increasing coalition partners, the list of potential partners is quickly diminishing. Correspondingly, prospects that rivals will oust Aburizal Bakrie for control of the party is increasing.

What coalitions are improbable? At the least, it is clear that a coalition of Islamic parties is not in the cards, notwithstanding the hopes of the many prominent clerics who gathered together to push for that coalition. Likewise, although President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party is pushing ahead to name its own presidential nominee, it is not clear that it will be able to bring together a coalition large enough to support that nomination. It may have to face up to being in the opposition.

Indonesia – Preliminary Results of the April 2014 Legislative Elections

Indonesians went to the polls April 9, 2014, to vote in one of the largest elections in the world: 560 seats of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR), 128 seats for the People’s Representatives Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, DPD), 2112 seats in provincial elections, and 16,895 district elections. Only 12 parties – of which one is new, Nasdem – were sanctioned by the General Election Commission (KPU) to contest the national elections, with an additional three eligible to contest provincial elections in Aceh. The one new party, NasDem (National Democrat Party) was founded by media mogul Surya Paloh, a former Golkar Party member.

There is intense interest in the results of the legislative elections, given the election law that only parties who receive 25 percent of the national vote or 20 percent of the parliamentary seats will be able to field a presidential candidate for the July elections. The Constitutional Court ruled in January 2014 that the next elections in 2019 must be concurrent for both legislature and presidency but deferred to the new legislative body to specify what thresholds, if any, should apply.

Preliminary quick-count results for the legislative elections reveal that no parties achieved the level of popular support needed to run independently for the presidential election in July. Official results are expected to be announced May 9, 2014.

The results show the PDI-P, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, leading in the polls with 19 percent of the popular vote. The PDI-P has not led in the polls since 1999, but the showing is less than the 27 percent popular vote that many had expected from the widely popular Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo and the “Jokowi” factor. This means that the PDI-P will have to form a coalition with partners to run for presidential elections in July.

The results also report better-than-expected performance across the Islamic parties, contradicting expectations of significant setbacks to religion-based parties. Indeed, even the PKS (Prosperous Justice Party), which had been caught in a sex-and-corruption scandal, lost only about 1 percent of popular support from the previous election.

The preliminary quick-count outcomes are tabulated below, alongside results from the previous 2009 legislative elections. A chart of the current composition of the parties in the legislature follows.

Party, leader or presidential nominee 2014 election quick count results 2009 legislative election results
PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, chair former President Megawai Sukarnoputri, presidential nominee Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo) 19 14.03
Golkar (leading party of the Suharto era, chair Aburizal Bakrie) 14.9 14.45
Gerindra (Party Movement Indonesia Raya, chair Prof. Dr. Ir. Suhardi, founder Prabowo Subianto in 2009) 12 4.46
Democratic Party (PD, chair President Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) 10 20.85
PKB (National Awakening Party, chair HA Muhaimin Iskandar) * 9 4.94
PAN (National Mandate Party, chair M. Hatta Rajasa) * 7.7 6.01
PKS (Prosperous Justice Party, chair Muhammad Anis Matta) * 7 7.88
Nasdem Party (National Democrat Party, chair media mogul Surya Paloh, former Golkar Party member. Only party to meet qualifications of General Elections Commission to join elections) 6.6
PPP (United Development Party, chair Dr. H. Suryadharma Ali) * 6.3 5.32
Hanura (People’s Conscience party formed in 2006 by chair former presidential candidate H. Wiranto, running mate Hary Tanoesoedibjo, media mogul) 3.2 3.77
PBB (Crescent Star Party, chair Dr. H. MS. Kaban) * 1.4
PKPI (Indonesian Justice and Unity party, Partai Keadilan dan Persatuan Indonesia, splinter party from Golkar) 1
* Denotes Islamic party

Governing coalition, 2009-2014, 426/560 total seats in the House of Representatives

Democratic Party: 148 seats

PKB (National Awakening Party): 28

PPP (United Development Party: 38

PAN (National Mandate Party): 46

PKS (Prosperous Justice Party): 57

Golkar Party: 109

 

Opposition

PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle): 94 seats

Hanura: 17

Gerindra: 26

 

Indonesia – (Dead) Presidents and Political Parties

The electoral race is heating up with the countdown to the legislative elections in April 2014 and the presidential elections in July. Almost on cue, we see political swipes taken against the standing president – President Yudhoyono and his once-popular Democratic Party – as well as the intensifying efforts of political parties to build momentum. The exercise has witnessed an increasing number of political parties seizing on legacies of past, dead presidents, namely, President Suharto, President Sukarno, and President Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid. In the case of President Gus Dur Wahid – a moderate Muslim strongly opposed to religious intolerance – several Islamic parties are vying to lay claims to preserving and continuing the president’s ideals. Are political parties harking back to the past of personalistic politics rather than constructing competitive, cogent political agenda based on voters’ interests? Does this speak to a trend of diminution of political parties? Evidence suggests that the answers are: no, and no.

In the first instance, there are indications that Indonesian political parties have worked to develop platforms for competitive election – albeit with varying success – with several incorporating an anti-corruption stance on their agenda. For instance, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) – the largest Islamic Party in Indonesia – has tried to expand beyond religion to become the “clean” party, i.e., one untainted by corruption, reflecting the effort to move beyond a religious platform and probably the awareness that religion was no longer sufficient to attract Indonesia’s popular vote. Unfortunately for the party, the efforts were cut short by corruption charges and sex and bribery scandals that hit the highest levels of the party. Similarly, President Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party was elected on a platform of anticorruption, social justice, and economic performance and the party’s recent escalated decline is due not only to the battery of corruption charges and intraparty feuds but also a lack of policy performance. The rise of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in the polls beyond the popularity of its chair, Megawati Sokarnoputi, may also be considered as moving beyond personalities. Of course, one may argue that the new-found popularity of the PDI-P may not be due to a more robust party agenda but, rather, the popularity of Jakarta Governonr Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. There’s certainly something to that: for instance, news reports point out that Jokowi’s popularity has led parties other than the PDI-P to feature him in their political ads. But, it is also true that Jokowi’s popularity rests largely on: (a) his record of successful implementation of policy platforms; and (b) Jokowi’s “man-of-the-people” that has engaged young and old voters. More importantly, they represent significant departures from personalistic-cult politics.

These circumstances point to a hopeful assessment on the question in the second instance: the diminution of political parties in Indonesia may be greatly exaggerated. What we are witnessing is the stops and starts in the process of institutionalizing political parties in emergent democracies. With elections imminent and in the face of several unpopular revelations, it is not surprising that some parties hope to stem the tide of losing popular support by harking back to past. It remains to be seen if this will work in the immediate term; there is no question, however, that in the medium- and long-term, programmatic appeal or policy record are the bases for electoral success.

Indonesia – The 2014 Elections: Political parties and Presidential nominees

Indonesia is counting down to the elections, with House and Council races scheduled for April and the Presidency in July (with run-offs in September). 560 seats of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR) are contestable, alongside 128 seats for the People’s Representatives Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, DPD). Together with provincial elections – 2112 seats – and district elections – 16,895 seats – the election year promises to be no small affair. A review of the election rules and the impact on political parties and the presidential elections will help frame how the election year unfolds.

Legislative elections are guided by Law No. 8, passed in 2012. Representatives to the DPR are elected under an open-list proportional system through affiliation with political parties. Members of the DPD are elected via single non-transferable vote, and perform as individuals in the Upper House, notwithstanding their political affiliations.

Article 8 of Law 8 stipulates that political parties may contest the elections if they meet the following conditions:

    1. Political Parties that contested the last Election and met the threshold of vote acquisition of the total national valid votes (3.5 percent) shall be determined as Contesting Political Parties in the next Election.
    2. Political Parties that did not meet the threshold of vote acquisition in the previous Election or newly established political parties may become Election Contestants after meeting the following requirements:

a)      have regional chapters in all provinces;

b)     have chapters in 75% (seventy five percent) of the total number of regencies/ municipalities in the province;

c)      have chapters in 50% (fifty percent) of the total number of districts/kecamatan in the regency/municipality;

d)      have at least 30% (thirty percent) women’s representation in the management of the central chapter of the political part;

e)      have a minimum of 1000 members of the total population for each chapter of political party;

In addition, Article 55 stipulates that the list of party nominees for candidates must contain at least 30% women candidates.
For 2014, the General Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Unum, KPU) sanctioned 12 parties to contest the national elections, with an additional three eligible to contest provincial elections in Aceh. They are:

  • Nasdem Party
  • National Awakening Party (PKB, chair HA Muhaimin Iskandar)
  • Prosperous Justice Party (PKS, chair Muhammad Anis Matta)
  • Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P, chair former President Megawai Sukarnoputri)
  • Golkar (leading party of the Suharto era, chair Aburizal Bakrie)
  • Party Movement Indonesia Raya (Gerindra, chair Prof. Dr. Ir. Suhardi, founder Prabowo Subianto)
  • Democratic Party (PD, chair President Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono)
  • National Mandate Party (PAN, chair M. Hatta Rajasa)
  • United Development Party (PPP, chair Dr. H. Suryadharma Ali)
  • People’s Conscience party (HANURA, chair former presidential candidate H. Wiranto)
  • Crescent Star Party (PBB, chair Dr. H. MS. Kaban)
  • Indonesian Justice and Unity party (PKPI, Partai Keadilan dan Persatuan Indonesia, splinter party from Golkar)

However, only parties or coalitions with at least 25 percent of the vote or 20 percent of the House are able to field a presidential candidate. The Constitutional Court has scrapped these requirements for the 2019 elections with the landmark decision to hold concurrent legislative and presidential elections. At the moment, that still rules out some of the parties, like the Gerindra party, that hold less than 20%  of the House seats.

Meanwhile, jockeying for nomination as presidential candidate of the various parties continues. Two parties have already nominated their candidates — Gerindra’s nominee is its founder, Prabowo Subianto, while Golkar’s presidential candidate is Aburizal Barkrie, its chair and chief benefactor — although they may not be able contest the presidential elections without coalition partners under the current electoral laws. Meanwhile, President Yudhoyo’s Democratic Party has set its 11 candidates on a national-tour-debate that will end in April. The PDI-P has yet to name a candidate: Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is a favourite and consistently outpolls the other candidates, but there is the possibility that the party may nominate Megawati as presidential candidate.

One thing seems clear: there will be no shortage of election news from Indonesia in 2014.

Indonesia – To Decree or Not to Decree?

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Perppu (presidential decree, or regulation in lieu of law in Indonesia) to address the issue of one of Indonesia’s highest institutions – the Constitutional Court – being hit by the nation’s most-entrenched problem – corruption – may alleviate the poignancy of the latest corruption scandal. The anticorruption watchdog, Komisi Peberantasan Korupsi (KPK), is formally investigating Akil Mochtar, now-suspended chief justice of the constitutional court, for accepting bribes to rule in favour of a losing candidate in the district chief elections in Lebak, Banten. In Indonesia, a Perppu is a government regulation issued under an emergency that carries the weight of the law until the House of Representatives rejects it or votes to support it.

The Perppu may restore the Constitutional Court or, at the least, ensure that a phoenix rises out of its ashes. It also raises the question (over which there is already some debate): is it necessary to light the fire in the first place? That is, does the corruption scandal in the Constitutional Court warrant the Perppu? More generally, under what conditions are presidential decrees useful?

For Indonesia, the answer depends on two considerations: first, the role of the Constitutional Court; second, the effect of the Perppu on accountability.

The Indonesian Constitution places characteristic checks and balances between the executive and bicameral legislature. In addition, the Constitution specifies roles for the Supreme Audit Board (Badan Permeriksa Keuangan) to ensure accountability of state finances, the Supreme Court as the highest court of the nation, and the Constitutional Court to review constitutionality of legislation and disputes over general election results.

This capacity of the Constitutional Court – to review and rule on general election disputes – frames the corruption charges against Akil. Local elections are highly contested as a result of significant expenditure powers following devolution in 2001, and the Constitutional Court has been, hitherto, the venue for authoritative ruling – they are final and binding – in election disputes. Clearly, this scandal strikes at the heart of political trust and democratic development in the country.

The urgency regarding the Constitutional Court lies in that it continues to adjudicate in election disputes, albeit with a significant loss in credibility. President Yudhoyono’s Perppu targets three areas for action: (a) criteria, (b) selection, and (c) oversight of the justices. Fundamentally, then, the Perppu represents a clear, unfailing commitment to political integrity at the highest levels of politics. It is an important signal.

Given the significance, it is critical to consider the Perppu in the broader context of government accountability, specifically, horizontal accountability between government institutions to check and restrain abuses of power by branches of government or public agencies.[i] It is instructive to note that when O’Donnell (1998) first raised the concept of horizontal accountability, he held “judicial autonomy” as “tricky” because the lack of oversight to enhance its autonomy may lead directly to a lack of accountability (123).[ii]

In this broader context, President Yudhoyono’s effort to enhance accountability is a step in the right direction. it is no wonder: the President consulted extensively with constitutional scholars, lawmakers, and members of the judiciary on this Perppu.

Which likely answers the larger question: when are presidential decrees useful? Clearly, when they address the problem (increase government effectiveness) and improve accountability in the process.


[i] See discussions in O’Donnell (1998), and Yap and Gibb (2013: 160), about horizontal accountability as well as its complement, vertical accountability, where public officials are held accountable through the electoral process, an active civil society, or a free press.

[ii] Studies of accountability generally focus on executive accountability with its potential for abus related to the position of head of government and commander-in-chief.