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:
- The Red-White Opposition Coalition passed an amendment to change the House Speaker position – which had always gone to the party with the plurality of votes in the legislature – to an elected position;
- In the fortnight of President Joko’s inauguration into office, the Red-White Coalition had appointed coalition-members into all leadership positions in the House, including 11 commissions and five special committees;
- In addition, the Red-White Coalition successfully elected one of its members to the position of Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), consisting of the 560-member House and 132-member Regional Representatives Council
- The most damaging action was the abolishing of direct elections for regional leaders, passed in September 2014
Some reversals that have occurred, limiting the real or potential “damage” of the Red-White Opposition:
- The President’s Perppu or Presidential Decree that reinstated direct elections for the regional leaders, issued by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono just prior to the end of his term, was unanimously passed by the legislature in January 2015. The unanimity was considered a solid political victory for President Jokowi, who had soundly criticized the abolishing;
- A power-sharing pact in the House, adding Deputy positions to be taken by parties of the Awesome Indonesia coalition, to all leadership positions in the House;
- Importantly, the President successfully reduced, then scrapped, fuel subsidies in the country, per his campaign pledge. The fall in fuel prices globally likely insulated the President against some resistance, but even prior to the fall, the President’s reduction of the subsidies met with “muted” protests, which contrasts starkly against the waves of protests when previous presidents pursued similar efforts.
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.