Tag Archives: Indonesia

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 – (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.