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INDONESIA POLLS: Election seen as an entry point for reform

Publication Date : 09-04-2014


A total of 185,822,507 registered voters in Indonesia are expected to cast their votes today to elect their representatives at the national level; the House of Representatives (DPR); Provincial Legislative Councils (DPRD I), Regional or Municipal Legislative Council (DPRD II), and at another legislative chamber at the national level--the Regional Representatives Council (DPD).

Judging the system, an Indonesian general election is technically a two-tier election: Preceded by a legislative election and ended with a presidential election. This year, the legislative election will be held today [April 9] and the presidential election on July 9.

A legislative election is essentially a prerequisite for the participation of political parties in the subsequent presidential election; in which a political party securing the minimum 25 percent of the popular vote or 20 percent of seats in the House, or a coalition of political parties with minimum cumulative percentage of the popular vote of 25 percent or 20 percent of House seats can nominate a pair of presidential-vice presidential candidates in the July 9 presidential election.

Based on the facts above, it certainly is wrong to conclude that the legislative election is not — or less — important than the presidential election. It is just that a legislative election is the prelude, but integral, to the presidential election.

In contrast to the ideal concept of our election system, observers, however, have predicted a decline in turnout for the legislative election, but a much bigger turnout for the presidential election. They argued that Indonesians were “sick and tired” of the poor performance of the House — as a representation of the legislative institution — as is evidenced by its “below-standard” legislation productivity and the corrupt behaviour of some of its lawmakers.

In view of the underperforming House and amid the increasing awareness and dream for an excellent Indonesia — with its popular tagline “Great Indonesia” — a number of leading figures in the Republic have come up with an idea of “initiating reforms” from the executive, rather than the legislative branch of power.

No less than Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) chairman, Sofjan Wanandi, and a key figure behind the 1974 Malari tragedy, Hariman Siregar, have aired the idea of initiating reforms from the country’s top executive post — the presidency — to the bottom of governance level in the regions.

Their calls for reform from the top executive post have apparently been inspired and influenced by the skyrocketing popularity of Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who was recently named a presidential candidate by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). His blusukan (impromptu visit) style of gathering first-hand information directly from Jakartans on problems in the capital city and his genuine, nothing-to-lose approach in handling those problems have raised hopes for change in Indonesia, although they still need to face the test of the history.

Still, as the two-tier election is the system that we now have, the results of the legislative election are unquestionably an important part of a successful presidential election.

As many quarters in the republic expect change or reform in the governance and the bureaucracy— the two integrated elements in an elected government — to start from the executive, a successful legislative election, therefore, must-have conditions. In a sense the people’s choice of a political party or a coalition of political parties that have the constitutional right to nominate a pair of presidential-vice presidential candidates to contest the July 9 election must fit and meet their expectation for the state leadership to initiate top-down reforms

And while the decision to vote or not to vote is the individual rights of each citizen, it is understandable that some have made up their mind to not vote today.

However, every decision or choice has its own consequences. A decision by those opting to be Golput (abstainers) in today’s legislative election might have consequences, for example, the opportunity for “reform-minded” presidential-vice presidential candidates to be nominated could be slimmer, especially when their numbers are great and can significantly influence the election results.

Their decision to not vote will then bring an ensuing consequence that they, as members of a Constitution- and legal-based nation, must respect whatever the result of the presidential election, including if the July 9 election fails to produce a State leadership duet that can meet their expectation for reform and change.


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