Category Archives: Indonesia

Political Trust in East and Southeast Asia

This post is based on a recent publication, “How political trust matters in emergent democracies: evidence from East and Southeast Asia,” available at the Journal of Public Policy

How does political trust matter in emergent democracies? Studies suggest that political trust may potentially buffer against public pressures for performance. For emergent democracies that are under pressure to perform on the competing fronts of policy and political performance, the promise of political trust providing policy or political leeway is useful to help with prioritization of the tasks of nation-building.[1] In particular, studies show governments in emergent democracies to be under considerable pressure to deliver on policy performance to broaden support for political survival; meanwhile, the nascent institutions in these democracies need further development to regularize facilities and capacities that will deliver political goods and inspire stalwart “democrats” to uphold democratic processes in the face of poor policy performance.

Unfortunately, limited empirical evidence exists for whether political trust provides such a leeway, and even fewer studies examine the possibility in emergent democracies. This neglect reflects that much of the literature has built around mature democracies, where the trade-off for policy performance versus political performance is unlikely to upend long-standing democratic practices and institutions.

This paper addresses that critical question: it considers if political trust provides political or policy leeway or both in emergent democracies, through assessments of how political trust displaces economic performance in explaining incumbent-approval or system-support. We use economic performance to take into account findings from economic voting studies that consistently show economic achievements to be integral to support for the government or the political system; consequently, if results show that political trust displaces economic performance in explaining public support for the government or the democratizing system, then they are strongly indicative of how political trust directed at incumbent-approval or system-support may provide leeway against public demands for economic performance. If political trust does not provide the political or policy leeway as suggested, then the government and the political system remain hostage to policy performance; if, however, political trust displaces policy-performance, it follows that voters may remain committed to the incumbent or political system or both despite poor policy performance.

The data are drawn from Asian Barometer Survey for the East and Southeast Asia countries of South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand, i.e., three presidential, one semi-presidential, and one (previously) parliamentary systems. The countries for East and Southeast Asia are interesting for examination: they vary in terms of democratic age and economic levels and, importantly, were countries with high economic achievements. More so than other countries, then, the public in the East and Southeast Asian countries may be inclined towards economic performance over political ones; consequently, if the results indicate that political trust displaces the economic performance in these countries to explain support, the results are likely to be highly generalizable.

Three results from successive waves of survey from the Asian Barometer are informative. First, they show that where political trust is statistically significant in explaining democratic support, economic performance is not relevant. That is, the results show where political trust is directed at system-support, it displaces economic performance to buffer political systems from the pressures of economic performance. Second, for incumbent-approval, both political trust and economic performance are relevant explanators; thus, political trust does not displace economic performance to explain incumbent-approval. Third, in conjunction, the results clarify that an economic focus in the respective countries may keep a government in office but political trust undergirds the political system. This emphasizes the priority of building political trust to deepen peace and stability in the region.

These results are particularly relevant for expanding study and understanding of the political trust literature to issues of democratic progression and consolidation that are unique to emergent democracies. By these results, recent events in the emergent democracies of East and Southeast Asia – where governments have prioritized growth over institution-building – are cause for concern. In particular, the results show that the pursuing growth in place of institution-building undermines long-term political peace and social stability. Thus, even for governments with primary interests in office-tenure, the results highlight an overlooked consideration: the long-term benefits of institution-building that helps build political trust in the emergent democracies.

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[1] These arguments of the effects of political trust align with Easton (1975)’s framing of specific and diffuse support. See Easton, D. 1975. “A Re-assessment of the Concept of Political Support.” British Journal of Political Science no. 5 (4):435-457. doi: 10.1017/S0007123400008309.

Indonesia – Democratic Retrograde Ahead of Elections, 2019?

With local elections ahead in July, 2018, and general and the presidential elections slated for April 17, 2019, in Indonesia, a useful question to consider is: how are political conditions in the world’s third largest democracy? Among the reasons for raising the question is President “Jokowi” Widodo’s recent allusions to Indonesia’s assumption of the political leadership mantle for the ASEAN and Southeast Asia countries, if not the larger international community. If the country is to exemplify political progress and development, how well are political conditions operating in the country, particularly ahead of the essential democratic process of open and fair elections? The short answer is: not great. Political progress in Indonesia has suffered a number of set-backs in recent years, most notably with the passing of President Jokowi’s Perppu on mass organizations, the passing of the amendment to the Law on Representative Assemblies, popularly referred to as the MD3 Law, the proposed revisions to the criminal code, and the approval of the 20 percent threshold for the Presidential Election Law, all of which compromise political openness. Add to this list President Jokowi’s endorsement of tough measures against drug trafficking and use – including shooting drug dealers – that puts the country in step with President Duterte’s war on drugs in the Philippines, and any hand-wringing over Indonesia’s political conditions may be understandable.

President Jokowi’s Perppu 2/2017 on mass organizations was issued on July 12, 2017, to ban groups that did not support Indonesia’s ideology of Pancasila. The Perppu, presidential decree, or regulation in lieu of law in Indonesia, was approved by the House with 314 of 445 votes on October 24, 2017, and seven of the nine parties in the House. While the law has been used to disband extremist hard-line Islamist groups, such as the Hizbut Tahrir, critics point out that it may be used to deny due process to organizations.

Also troubling is the amendment to the Law on Representative Assemblies, popularly referred to as the MD3, that was passed by the House on February 21, 2018. The MD3 allows the legislative body’s ethics council (MKD) to press charges against those critical of the House and its members, including “disrespect” of the House. Article 245 of the law also states that an investigation concerning a member of the House must receive permission from the president and be reviewed by MKD. Critics point out that these regulations will largely restrict the roles of agencies such as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and silence all criticisms. President Jokowi has announced that he will not sign the law; still, the law goes into effect automatically without his endorsement 30 days after the bill passes the House.

In addition, the House has made revisions of the criminal code one of the national legislative priorities in 2018. The criminal code is based on a penal code under Dutch colonisation in 1918, which was retained following Indonesia’s independence. While change is likely useful given that timing, a significant problem with the revisions lies with the retention of many of the old regulations, so that there is not much improvement. Further, the draft contains problematic provisions, including criminal codes that would take corruption investigation out of the KPK, criminalization of same-sex relations, extramarital sex and adultery, and codes that affect the civil liberties and rights of marginalized and vulnerable groups, and the poor. The draft also contains legislation that makes insulting the president a crime punishable by up to five years in jail. The draft is at the final stages in the House, and is expected to pass before the year ends to avoid running into the election year in 2019.

Minority parties and independents may not wield much impact to counter these political conditions: the House passed the 2017 Elections Law to maintain the presidential nomination threshold, where only parties or coalitions with at least 20 percent of the seats in the legislature or 25 percent of the popular vote based on the outcome of the 2014 legislative elections are able to nominate presidential candidates. The Law was challenged constitutionally, but the Constitutional Court rejected the challenge on January 11, 2018. With the threshold in place, small parties and independents are likely reduced to supporting roles to the larger, broad-based political parties.

These recent laws in Indonesia portend a democratic retrograde in the world’s third largest democracy. President Jokowi’s political rise was founded on his “man-of-the-people” persona that engaged voters across spectrums. Eyes are on how this man-of-the-people will structure the political road to the 2019 elections and beyond.

Indonesia – What lies ahead for Presidential Elections 2019?

On 23 February, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) officially nominated President Joko Widodo, popularly known as President Jokowi, as its presidential candidate for the 2019 elections. The 2019 elections will be the first where both legislative and presidential elections are held on the same day since direct elections for the presidency was instituted in 2004. The latest reform follows a Constitutional Court ruling in January 2014, from a challenge to the Presidential Election Law, Law No. 42/2008, that governed the nomination and election of presidential candidates. The Presidential Election Law had stipulated that elections for legislative and presidential elections be held at least three months apart, so that only parties or coalitions that received 25 percent of the national vote or 20 percent of the parliamentary seats are able to field presidential candidates. The Court ruled that this sequential timing was unconstitutional; however, it left the legislature to decide on whether the thresholds for nomination should remain. On July 20, 2017, some 534 of the 560 lawmakers – an estimated 95.4 percent – attended a plenary session to pass the bill to maintain the thresholds. The attendance is testimonial to the significance of the bill: plenary sessions usually see less than half of the representatives of the House present. By the new law, only parties or coalitions with at least 20 percent of the seats in the legislature or 25 percent of the popular vote based on the outcome of the 2014 legislative elections are able to nominate presidential candidates. What lies ahead for the coming 2019 Presidential elections?

The threshold will certainly limit the number of candidates running for elections. So far, only President Jokowi’s candidacy has been formally announced. The President’s candidacy is supported by the National Democratic Party as well as Golkar, if not the other parties of the ruling Awesome Indonesia coalition that include the Hanura Party, the PAN (National Mandate Party), and the PPP (United Development Party). This is a big change from the 2014 elections, when the PDI-P’s surprise failure to garner the support needed to meet the threshold gave it a late start in the political jockeying among parties. Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra party, the other presidential candidate in the 2014 elections, looks set to run as a candidate again, supported by Gerindra and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and particularly following the recent win by Anies Baswedan – the candidate supported by the Gerindra party-supported– in the Jakarta gubernatorial elections. There is talk of Anies Baswedan running for elections himself, replicating President Jokowi’s strategy back in 2014, although he will clearly need the backing of a number of parties in order to cross that threshold.

An issue that will undoubtedly surface in the presidential elections is religious divisions. Religious-based parties have kept a firm hold on the electorate: indeed, in the 2014 elections, Islamic parties reported better-than-expected results that contradicted expectations of significant setbacks to religion-based parties. 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.[1] Religion was also used successfully as a strategy to divide the popular vote in the Jakarta elections: Governor Anies had 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, during the campaign. The former and highly popular governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was running as the incumbent, had his election-bid upended when he was charged, and subsequently convicted, of blasphemy against the Qu’ran. Meanwhile, religiously motivated attacks have been on the rise in Indonesia, prompting the legislature to pass the President’s Perppu to ban organizations that did not support Indonesia’s ideology of Pancasila. That law has been used to disband extremist hard-line Islamist groups, such as the Hizbut Tahrir; however, critics are concerned that the law gives the government the right to disband organizations without due process of law.

As the world’s third largest democracy, and a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, many will undoubtedly be intently watching the local elections in 2018, and general elections in 2019, to see how Indonesia fares amid stalling democratization and even reversals in East and Southeast Asia.

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[1] Yap, O. Fiona. 2014. “Indonesia – Preliminary Results of the April 2014 Legislative Elections.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=1054 April 11, 2014 <accessed 5 March 2018>

Dan Slater – Victory vs. Reciprocity: Presidential Power-sharing and Party Cartelization in Indonesia

This is a guest post by Dan Slater, University of Michigan. It is based on his article in Journal of East Asian Studies

Democracy and opposition are supposed to go hand in hand. Opposition did not emerge as automatically as expected after Indonesia democratized in 1998, however, because presidents shared power much more widely than expected. The result has been what I call party cartelization, Indonesian-style. As I argue in my new article in the Journal of East Asian Studies, this differs significantly from canonical cases of party cartelization in Europe. Yet it exhibits the same troubling outcome for democratic accountability: the stunted development of a clearly identifiable party opposition.

Since the advent of direct presidential elections in 2004, Indonesian democratic competition has unsurprisingly assumed somewhat more of a government-vs.-opposition cast. But this shift has arisen more from contingent failures of elite bargaining than from any decisive change in the power-sharing game. So long as Indonesia’s presidents consider it strategically advantageous to share power with any party that declares its support, opposition will remain difficult to identify and vulnerable to being extinguished entirely in the world’s largest emerging democracy.

I reached these conclusions by asking three interrelated theoretical questions. First, how does opposition emerge as a political process in newly democratic settings? Second, how do democratically elected presidents share power and build ruling coalitions? And third, how might new political rules reshape those power-sharing practices?

Presidential power-sharing is a strategic political game. It is shaped, accordingly, by political institutions. Of particular importance are the rules governing selection of the chief executive; in Indonesia’s case, always a president. If a president is elected by parliament, as in Indonesia from 1999-2004, he or she is an agent of parliament. He can be expected to share power, roughly proportionally, with the parties resident there that selected him. If the people elect the president, he is an agent of the people, and should face less imperative to share power with parties in parliament that not only played no role in putting him there, but in many cases directly opposed his candidacy.

Yet in both instances, the same implicit assumption underpins our expectations. We assume that a president will share power with whichever parties helped put him in power, and not with those who played no role or even tried to prevent his election. This is what I call Victory: a power-sharing game predicated upon the unwritten rule that presidents will share power only with parties that supported him during his election campaign. To the extent that Victory is the power-sharing game, identifiable party opposition arises automatically. Someone must lose, so someone must go into opposition.

But what if Victory is not the game presidents play? Either in the presence or absence of direct presidential elections, a president might offer to share power with any and all parties that promise to support the presidency, even if they earlier opposed the presidential candidate. Instead of Victory, I call this power-sharing game Reciprocity. If a president prefers or is pressured to play Reciprocity, the emergence of identifiable party opposition becomes contingent rather than automatic. So long as post-electoral Reciprocity bargains can be struck with all parties, all parties can join the executive. Identifiable party opposition may thus vanish, as it did in Indonesia from 1999-2004, even in a perfectly functional and democratic electoral system. Someone must lose the election, but no one has to lose power.

This allows us to recast Indonesia’s struggle to generate an identifiable opposition in straightforward theoretical language. Party cartelization, Indonesian-style rests upon the power-sharing game of Reciprocity. Direct presidential elections will only disrupt or dismantle the cartelized party system if presidents build coalitions comprised of parties that supported him as well as nonparty allies of his own choosing, through the game of Victory.

Yet there are two critical wrinkles to consider. The first is that presidents not only make strategic choices about whom to share power with, but about how much power each partner will receive. Power-sharing games involve distributional conflict among coalition partners, not just between government insiders and outsiders. This means that presidents can strategically provide bonuses to existing supporters through a super-proportional share of cabinet seats, while relegating previous opponents to a sub-proportional share.

Hence when examining cabinet data, we must be attentive not only to whether presidents are sharing power with parties that opposed them during the election (i.e. playing a Reciprocity game), but also to deviations from the principle that cabinet seats should be distributed proportionally to coalition partners. This should indicate whether presidents have always strategically offered bonuses to electoral backers and imposed punishments on electoral opponents, and whether they are doing so more often since direct presidential elections were introduced. The more willing Indonesian presidents are to sideline erstwhile opponents, the more they shift from a Reciprocity game toward a Victory game, and the better the prospects become for identifiable opposition to emerge and strengthen in Indonesia.

The second caveat is perhaps even more important. It is that presidential coalitions are not necessarily faithful reflections of a president’s strategic preferences. Although presidents can choose to play a Victory game by fiat, Reciprocity is a resolutely two-sided game. In other words, Victory games only require a directly elected president to exclude electoral opponents from power as a unilateral strategy. Reciprocity demands that they engage those former opponents in a more complicated, multilateral bargaining process.

Whether a president seeking to play Reciprocity can actually find willing coalition partners at a price the president is ready to pay depends not on executive decree, but on hard political bargaining. Hence even when we see a coalitional outcome that seems to reflect a Victory game, we must examine whether the absence of Reciprocity arose from a president’s strategic decision to play Victory, or from his contingent failure to “seal the deal” with active negotiating partners in an ongoing Reciprocity game.

The implications of this seemingly minor distinction are quite major. If direct presidential elections have emboldened Indonesia’s presidents since 2004 to start pursuing Victory rather than playing Reciprocity, then the strategic underpinning of party cartelization is seriously weakening. This would mean that recent moves toward more identifiable opposition, as detailed in my JEAS article, are unlikely to be reversed. But if directly elected presidents are still playing Reciprocity, and simply failing to strike bargains, then the game of power-sharing remains unchanged, even as the final outcome has shifted. This implies that a return to the full party cartelization of the 1999-2004 period remains a meaningful specter, even more than a decade after direct presidential elections were introduced and the party cartel was first disrupted.

As my article’s data and narrative show, presidential power-sharing in Indonesia has gradually drifted, but not definitively shifted, from a Reciprocity game toward a Victory game. In raw quantitative terms, the figure below unmistakably shows that parties have increasingly positioned themselves outside of government since 2004. Yet the numbers obscure much of what my qualitative assessment reveals. The lingering importance of Reciprocity can still be seen in vigorous efforts by both President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004-14) and President Joko Widodo (or Jokowi, 2014-present) to forge alliances across the full range of Indonesian parties.

In my earlier collaborative research, I call this promiscuous power-sharing: “an especially flexible coalition-building practice in which parties express or reveal a willingness to share executive power with any and all other significant parties after an election takes place, even across a country’s most important political cleavages” (Slater and Simmons, 2013). From this perspective, promiscuous bargaining has continued almost unabated since 2004, but it has not always been consummated in power-sharing bargains. In sum, promiscuous power-sharing primarily arose from 1999-2004 because parliamentary parties had the power to demand it; it has persisted since 2004, even while evolving and abating, because even directly elected presidents have had a strategic interest in maintaining it.

Continued attempts at promiscuous power-sharing strongly suggest that Reciprocity remains the dominant game. Party cartelization has abated in Indonesia, but not vanished. And it could still easily come back in its most extreme form. Even if it does not, the public willingness of all parties to consider power-sharing alliances with all other parties means that Indonesia’s voters can never be confident that a vote for one party means a vote against any other. Under conditions of promiscuous power-sharing, objectionable and unpopular parties and individuals can only be removed from office by elites, not by the voters. Indonesia shows that direct presidential elections make party cartelization harder, but far from impossible.

In conclusion, the most intriguing implication of Indonesia’s experience with democratic power-sharing may be this: Presidents may sometimes see broad coalitions as a source instead of a drain on their power and resources. Oversized coalitions are typically seen as being more expensive to maintain. But this may not be how presidents see things at all, at least under certain conditions. Oversized coalitions may be better conceived as ways for presidents to spread the same amount of resources across more claimants, thus ensuring that no single partner can become too strong as a rival. If nothing else, the persistence and evolution of party cartelization, Indonesian-style suggests that power-sharing should not be seen as occasions for presidents simply to give. Political scientists should look more carefully to see what presidents may sometimes be taking away.

New publications

Robert Elgie, Political Leadership: A Pragmatic Institutionalist Approach, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Robert Elgie, ‘The election of Emmanuel Macron and the new French party system: a return to the éternel marais?’, Modern & Contemporary France, pp. 1-15, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09639489.2017.1408062.

Tapio Raunio and Thomas Sedelius, ‘Shifting Power-Centres of Semi-Presidentialism: Exploring Executive Coordination in Lithuania’, Government and Opposition, pp. 1-24, 2017 doi:10.1017/gov.2017.31.

António Costa Pinto and Paulo José Canelas Rapaz (eds.), Presidentes e (Semi)Presidencialismo nas Democracias Contemporâneas, Lisbon, ICS, 2017.

Rui Graça Feijó, ‘Perilous semi-presidentialism? On the democratic performance of Timor-Leste government system’, Contemporary Politics, Online first, available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/Ah3Y2e6RJFCwnbA4BRze/full

Special issue on Perilous Presidentialism in Southeast Asia; Guest Editors: Mark Thompson and Marco Bünte. Contemporary Politics, Papers available Online first at: http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showAxaArticles?journalCode=ccpo20.

Jung-Hsiang Tsai, ‘The Triangular Relationship between the President, Prime Minister, and Parliament in Semi-presidentialism: Analyzing Taiwan and Poland’, Soochow Journal of Political Science, Vol. 35, Iss. 2, (2017): 1-71.

Nicholas Allen, ‘Great Expectations: The Job at the Top and the People who do it’, The Political Quarterly. doi:10.1111/1467-923X.12447.

Farida Jalalzai, ‘Women Heads of State and Government’, in Amy C. Alexander, Catherine Bolzendahl and Farida Jalalzai (eds.), Measuring Women’s Political Empowerment Across the Globe, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Aidan Smith, Gender, Heteronormativity, and the American Presidency’, London: Routledge, 2018.

Special issue on Protest and Legitimacy: Emerging Dilemmas in Putin’s Third Term, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, Volume 25, Number 3, Summer 2017.

Marcelo Camerlo and Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo (eds.), Government Formation and Minister Turnover in Presidential Cabinets: Comparative Analysis in the Americas, Routledge, 2018.

Michael Gallagher, ‘The Oireachtas: President and Parliament’, Politics in the Republic of Ireland, 6th Edition, Routledge, 2018.

João Carvalho, ‘Mainstream Party Strategies Towards Extreme Right Parties: The French 2007 and 2012 Presidential Elections’, Government and Opposition, pp. 1-22, 2017, doi:10.1017/gov.2017.25

Sidney M. Milkis and John Warren York, ‘Barack Obama, Organizing for Action, and Executive-Centered Partisanship’, Studies in American Political Development, 31(1), 1-23. doi:10.1017/S0898588X17000037.

Pål Kolstø and Helge Blakkisrud, ‘Regime Development and Patron–Client Relations: The 2016 Transnistrian Presidential Elections and the “Russia Factor”’, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, Volume 25, Number 4, Fall 2017, pp. 503-528.

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.