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Pemilu 1999

Assessing political reform and the elections

The rise and rise of political parties

The most important political force to emerge since the downfall of former President Soeharto has
been the political party elites. At the time of the donwfall the student movement was a deciding
factor supported by the collapse of an economy created through personal patronage and access,
instead of legal certainty and policy predictability.

Nonetheless since his downfall the students have played an ambiguous role, being divided
themselves between those boycotting any role in shaping and those willing to engage the system
such as through election monitoring.

This division of the student movement between those engaged in the process and those
disengaged from effective participation has weakened the students' capacity to influence political

The weakness of the students has allowed a new group to assume a far stronger role in the
political process, namely the political parties and their leaders. The new power groups made their
presence felt clearly during the debates on the new elections system.

The political system as proposed by the Government would have seen the relative balance
between the Government, the political parties and the electorate change. The Government's plan
would have seen control over the electoral and legislative system (at that stage controlled by the
Government) devolve with some powers reaching the electorate (such as a single member district
system, civil society representation on the proposed KPU, voluntary voter registration). Other
powers would have been devolved to the parties (independence of party activity and leadership,
control over their candidates, membership of the KPU and freedom to monitor the elections).

By the time the debate on the laws concluded, this realignment of power saw the Government
continue to lose significant power over the electoral and legislative system as planned.

However much of the power, which had been planned to be assumed by the electorate, was taken
up by the parties. Evidence of this can be seen in the decision to retain an essentially proportional
electoral system in which candidature and “winnable” seats are determined by the parties not the
electorate and in which the future of parliamentarians is more determined by their relationship
with their party elites than with the electorate.

(A district system would have strengthened the link between the parliamentarian and their
electorate, more than with the their party).

Membership of the KPU does not include civil society while the parties assume half the
membership (up from the one third initially planned). Unspecific definitions about the type of
person eligible for membership of the KPU has further strengthened the power of the party elites
as many are themselves represented on the KPU as representatives from their parties.

The KPU, since it began to operate, has demonstrated further the rise and rise of the political
party elites. The decision to permit party elites to determine which of the 2 seat determination
methods their party would use in determining which of their candidates will win a seat is the
clearest example of this new found power. The unspecific detail even as to whether the elites need to identify which system to use before the election day presents them with a potentially
extraordinary power to determine who enters parliament.

At this stage there appears little difference in terms of the desire to play a far greater role in the
political system between parties now inside the parliament and those outside it. This suggests a
broader unity of interest on electoral matters between the parties. This unity has been a core
reason for the effectiveness of the party leaders in strengthening their grip on the political system
over the past 6 months.

The Government has to date shown an almost complete incapacity to “control” the political
parties and their leaders. This represents a clear shift in the domestic balance of power away
from the Government to non–Government entities.

While the electorate has to an extent been empowered, for example through freedom to monitor
the elections and freedom (with the parties) to select a party of their choice, it was denied much
of the powers offered by the Government through the draft laws.

7 June will remain polling day

Indonesia's General Elections of 1999 will be conducted in one month's time. Despite the
closeness of the date, a polemic has begun to emerge that the elections will be delayed. The
source of this polemic is a concern that preparations for the elections are running behind
schedule. In favour of a delay is the simple review of history. The first election law was passed
in 1953, for an election that took place in 1955. The law was changed in 1969 for an election
held in 1971. On this occasion the laws were passed in January for an election in June.

The current skepticism about the bona fides of the existing Administration of President Habibie,
adds a further element of doubt to whether an election will take place. Registration for voters has
been slower than expected, while in areas such as Aceh and East Timor the number of registered
voters has been very low.

Despite these logistical and other challenges, there are very sound reasons why the elections
won't be delayed. The first reason is political, that is for the General Elections Commission
(KPU) to decide to delay the elections would be an admission of defeat by them. This is
problematic, as many of these people are also senior party figures and legislative candidates.

While many people calling for a delay are arguing in terms of logistical difficulties, there is also a
very strong argument that the date most fixed in the minds of the parties and electoral
administration agencies is 7 June. In the regions a momentum towards 7 June is building. A
change in this date would deflate this momentum, and actually complicate the process of
rebuilding momentum again.

The Elections will take place on 7 June. Logistical and other problems in certain areas can be
addressed legally and legitimately through reballoting or through delays in the conduct of the
election until conditions permit the conduct of a free and fair ballot. This process of delayed
ballot or reballot can take place up to a month after the date of the elections.

Preparations for the ballot

Across the country registration is at least 70% while in the densely populated islands of Java and
Bali registration is above 80%. This level of voter registration is quite positive and is expected to
continue growing towards the date of the election.

On this basis voter turnout should be quite high, certainly on the basis of comparative turnouts for
other countries undergoing an election under “transitional” circumstances. The likely voter
turnout in East Timor will be very low, in part reflecting civil tension and in part reflecting a
“protest” vote against participation in an Indonesian election.

The election campaign should see election–related violence, but not to the extent that the conduct
and results of the ballot on 7 June are compromised. Election related violence can be expected to
take a higher news priority than simmering regional/ethnic/religious violence during this time.

The election system will encourage intra–party conflict

The election law was quite unspecific about the electoral system to be used. Indeed key elements
in defining the system were left to the KPU to determine. With the decision to allow party
leaderships to determine which seat determination system they wish to use the possibility for
internal party conflict has been aroused. That party leaderships do not appear to have to make
clear their seat allocation system preference before the elections virtually guarantees conflict
within their parties.

To recapitulate on the electoral system, the basis is proportional. Each province is one electoral
district. Total votes for each party in each province are counted, and the number of seats won are
determined on the basis of the proportion of the votes won within the province.

To determine which candidates are elected the KPU has to look at the results of the elections in
each municipality and county within each province. If for example a party won 1 seat in the
province, the candidate associated with the city or county with the party's best result will win the

The problem is that there are 2 ways to determine the “best” result. The first way is to see in
which city/county the party received the most votes. This system obviously provides a massive
boost to candidates from heavily populated areas while clearly making it all but impossible to win
from a city/county with a small population.

The second method is to determine in which city/county the party received it best result in terms
of percentage of the result within the city/county. For example in city A the party received 25%
of the vote, its best result. The candidate from this city would win. This approach does not lead
to discrimination against smaller populated regions.

By contrast with City A the party only received 3% of the vote in City B. Under the “percentage”
system the candidate form City A would win. Under the “number” system the candidate from
city B would win as City B had a population of about 1,000,000 voters (the candidate in City A
received 25,000 votes while form City B the candidate received 30,000 votes).
Permitting both system to be used adds confusion to the electoral system, an unhealthy situation
when a new electoral system is being applied and in circumstances of broader cynicism regarding
the political process.

While there is little possibility for this system to lead to conflict between parties, there is clear
possibility of internal party conflict, as some candidates could be elected by one system and
others through the other.

The regulations do not specify that the decision on which system to use has to be made before the
elections. This means it may be possible for party leaders to play god in determining which of
their party's candidates are elected. While such powers provide party leaders with the
extraordinary ability to determine who enters parliament, this will all but guarantee internal party
conflict, as candidates not selected but who would have won under a different system battle,
complain severely as they were not selected. It would be seen internally as favouritism within the

Possible election results

There are a number of scenarios for an electoral outcome. The most recent guestimates suggest
the following outcome:

Seats PDI Golkar PKB PAN PPP Other
No. seats 144 96 69 66 50 37
% seats 31.2 20.8 14.9 14.3 10.8 8.0
% votes 31.8 18.3 16.0 13.3 11.5 9.1

Regionally these results assume the following results:

Percentage of votes for parties by region
Seats PDI Golkar PKB PAN PPP Other
Sumatra 25 29 9 18 12 7
Java 35 9 21 13 13 9
Kalimantan 21 32 18 9 12 9
Sulawesi 17 44 5 22 5 7
Bali to Irian 42 30 6 11 4 8
Indonesia 31 21 15 14 11 8

These possible results indicate that Megawati's PDI is very strong across Java and the non–
Muslim regions from Bali through to Irian Jaya.

Golkar becomes the second largest party in the country, although it is largely wiped out of the key
island of Java (where half of all seats are found). There is a possibility that its vote in Java could
be higher, most notably in the province of West Java. Any increase in this province would see
Golkar's total seat number exceed 100. The party holds up very strongly in Sulawesi. The
President and a number of key political figures of his Administration originate from Sulawesi.
PKB polls strongly across Java especially in East and Central Java. Its vote outside Java is
expected to be notable only in Kalimantan, especially South Kalimantan where a strong religious
base for the Nahdlatul Ulama is present.

PAN is strongest in Muslim Sulawesi and may be the closest thing to a balance against Golkar in
this island. It will be a similar pattern in the Muslim areas of Sumatra, most notably in the
troubled region of Aceh. Low voter participation rates may disproportionately affect the party in
Aceh. A good urban vote may actually boost PAN's proportion in this province. The party is
also expected to poll stronger in urban areas rather than in rural areas of Indonesia.
The New Order's Islamic oriented party, PPP, will retain a vote in those areas where it has a base,
notably Aceh, Jakarta, West Java, South Kalimantan. There may also be a good result in West
Kalimantan (from where the party leader originates).

Among the smaller parties, Java will permit several to be elected. This is because the percentage
of the vote needed to gain a seat in the 3 big provinces of Java will be barely 1% of the total vote
in these provinces. Parties expected to win seats here will be the smaller Islamic and Christian

Outside Java strong religious affiliations (Islam in the West and Christianity in the East) are
expected to assist religious based parties win a few seats. Among the Muslim parties seats may
be won by The Moon and Crescent Party (PBB) and the Justice Party (PK) while for the
Christians the National Christian Party (Krisna) and the Democratic Party of National Love
(PDKB) and perhaps the Democratic Catolic Party (PKD) in the island of Flores.

The concentration of seats to be won by the parties can be seen in the following:

Regional voting strengths in percentage
Seats PDI Golkar PKB PAN PPP Other
Sumatra 18 31 13 29 24 19
Java 57 22 71 44 60 54
Kalimantan 5 11 9 5 8 8
Sulawesi 5 19 3 14 4 8
Bali to Irian 15 17 4 9 4 11
Indonesia 100 100 100 100 100 100

From this picture, it becomes clear that the Java centred parties are PDI, PKB and PPP, while
Golkar and to a lesser extent PAN are parties of the outer islands.

Building parliamentary coalitions

The “reform” coalition
This coalition would comprise Megawati's PDI Perjuangan, with the Nahdlatul Ulama related
PKB and the modernist Muslim/urban liberal coalition of PAN. Combined this coalition
represents 56% of seats without ABRI's 38 seats or 63% with the ABRI seats. This would
represent a coalition with the cleanest break with the past, especially considering ABRI's “votes”
do not determine a parliamentary majority for this coalition..

The presence of the largest party within the parliament as part of this coalition suggests strongly
that the results would be easily accepted by the community in general.

The “New Order” led coalition
This coalition would be formed with Golkar and the PPP as its core components plus ABRI.
Either PKB or PAN would need to be enticed, as would some of the small Islamic parties. Under
this system the majority would be modest and dependent upon intensive coalition maintenance.
The inclusion of Golkar and ABRI as core components of this coalition may see “pro–reform”
forces protesting this coalition. However should Golkar save some vote in Java, it may emerge as
a party with considerably more than 100 seats. These seats would be at the expense of PDI and
potentially PPP and PKB too. Such a result would strengthen its capacity to fashion a coalition.

Towards the presidency

One point, which seems to have been missed in popular discussion about these elections, is that
they do not produce a government per se. Neither necessarily need unstable parliamentary
coalitions mean unstable Governments.

Indonesia will continue to operate under an Executive not Parliamentary Government system1.
Fears that these elections will herald a return to the parliamentary instability of the 1950s are
therefore illogical. The new President may be more accountable to the parliament and may, like
USA presidents confronting a hostile Congress. Nonetheless the prospects of a new Government
every 6 months is not a prospect worthy of consideration.
The National Assembly that consists essentially of the Parliament plus 2 other groups elects the

The 2 other groups consist of regional representatives while the second group is social group
representatives. Each province will send 5 persons to the National Assembly. Based on the
expected results of the elections, we guestimate the likely breakdown of the regional
representatives to be as follows:

PDI led Golkar led ABRI Total
Coalition Coalition linked seats
67 57 11 135

1 This statement represents one of my greatest analytical mistakes. Sadly it has also been a mistake that
many continue to make even today. In practice the 1945 Constitution was not just parliamentary, but superparliamentary
as the Parliament (namely the MPR) elects both the Head of State and Head of Government
– who are the same person, namely the President. This parliament also has the power to sack this person.
Indeed as the next 2 years were to show the parliament through the MPR appointed and dismissed
President Wahid then appointed President Megawati. Indeed looking back the MPR both appointed and
dismissed both President Sukarno and President Habibie. It also frequently re–appointed President
Soeharto. Its calls for him to resign were met with him resigning prior to being dismissed. While the
terminology used is one of “impeachment”, in practice the process is more like a drawn out motion of noconfidence
as recognised in a standard parliamentary system. The appearance of “presidentalism” has
been brought about by the fact that the President, as in other presidential systems is concurrenly Prime
Minister. Also the extraordinary powers enjoyed by the first 2 presidents – until their dismissal/resignation
– led people to assume this as a “presidential” system. Indeed the power de facto of these Presidents was
achieved through essentially emasculating the parliament so as to constrict its capacity to threaten him. To
do so also required the President to emascuate the electorate either through no holding elections (Old
Order) or heavily managed elections (new Order).

These results do not significantly weaken the PDI led coalition while it confirms that any Golkar
led coalition could only be fashioned with ABRI support. A Golkar led coalition would assume a
further 8 or so seats from either PKB or PAN (whichever joins the Gokar led group). This would
reduce a PDI led opposition group by the same number of seats.

It is hard to determine with which group a majority of the 65 social group representatives will sit.
This will not be known until these groups have selected their candidates and their representatives
are functioning in the National Assembly.

Even so without any support from any these 5 and without any support ABRI nor any of the
smaller parties, a PDI led coalition would be only 4 seats under a clear majority. A Golkar led
coalition under these same circumstances (no ABRI, small parties nor social group supporters)
would still leave it 70 seats short of a clear majority. Based on these configurations, the main
candidates in descending order of possibility for the Presidency include:

• Megawati Sukarnoputri

• General Wiranto

• President BJ Habibie and

• Prof Amien Rais.²

With the tripartite coalition (PDI, PKB and PAN) representing a majority, it is very hard to
imagine how Mrs Megawati would not become President.

At this stage Golkar is incapable of determining a single presidential candidate. Forcing a
decision would clearly be very destabilising internally. If Golkar can not agree on President
Habibie before the election there would be a high possibility of them ultimately choosing General
Wiranto. This choice would not be problematic in enticing PKB, but would be much more
difficult for PAN to accept should Golkar seek to bring it into that coalition.

PAN's candidate is Amien Rais, but the party has indicated it accepts if it were not the largest
party, it would either move to opposition or support another candidate.

The PKB officially supports Abdurrachman Wahid as their presidential candidate. As a party
with a traditionalist Javanese support base, it is likely too that the party would look favourably to
the Sultan of Yogyakarta in some leadership position, perhaps as Vice–President. Their party too
does not look likely to be the largest party. If, internally, the party can not support a woman as
President (Megawati), the party could be enticed to support a Golkar candidate who was not
President Habibie.

The PPP has tentatively expressed support for its national leader, Hamzah Haz, but this party
could also support President Habibie. They would be struggling to support Megawati and to a
lesser extent General Wiranto.

Possible spanners in the works

Once the election is over and the reballoting has taken place in those areas affected by complaints
of interference with the election process, one potential problem could emerge if Golkar does very
well (even under free an fair conditions).
2 The emergence of a third block which came later to be known as the Central Axis (Poros Tengah) had not
entered my mind.

One of the problems confronting an election in a transitional situation is that many within the
population will only accept that the election is free and fair if the “old ruling” party is defeated.
While this is usually the result, there are examples of a couple of countries in East Europe where
the old dominant parties were able to garner a clean majority. Independent monitoring can assist
establish the bona fides of such an election outcome, but the potential for rejecting the results
needs to be considered.

Of greater probability for trouble would be a result in which PDI does very well in the elections,
(perhaps 35% or more) and clearly represents the major party in the parliament but in which there
was a serious attempt at ensuring a non–PDI favoured candidate won the presidency. Under these
circumstances the PDI masses could be expected to mobilise to demand “direct elections for the
President”. This would add top pressure to ensure that the “will of the people” as expressed
through the ballot for the parliament be reflected in the president elected through the National

{The footnotes in this document were added on 27 December 2008, as I reviewed the original document – all with the comforting distance of almost 10 years of hind-sight! The comments are intended to provide both a little historic context that may now have been forgotten with time and also to provide some auto-criticism of where I believe my analysis was flawed or perhaps biased. From the original document I have also corrected typing mistakes and grammatical errors without changing the integrity and substance of what was initially written. The footnotes therefore do not represent part of the original document.}


New System,

This report looks at some of the features of the new system1 and identifies how these aspects
of the system compare with the old system.
Changes to Indonesia's electoral machinery
From the General Elections Institute to the General Elections Commission
The first notable difference between the old system and the new is that the political parties
have the right to be closely involved in the whole electoral process from the establishment of
the new General Elections Commission. The old General Elections Institute was essentially a
council of Government ministers which suffered from all manner of ethical challenge in
trying to demonstrate independence and fairness. Indeed there was little possibility of an
independent electoral authority being formed while its public service members were
constantly being reminded of their duty to support the government grouping, Golkar.
The initial Government draft proposed a tripartite membership of the KPU with equal
weighting between Government, the political parties and civil society in order to ensure that
no group could dominate the process. The DPR, without noticeable opposition from parties
outside the DPR, considered it unnecessary and too complicated to include civil society in the
KPU2. The system adopted in the new law consists of equal weighted representation from the
Government (none of whom occupy functional public servant positions, that is there are no
Directors General or Secretaries General) and half from representatives of the political parties
eligible to run in the elections. The new Commission represents a further development of the
institutionalisation of agencies commonly known as Quasi Autonomous Non-Government
Organistions. These agencies are actually official institutions and are publicly funded yet
function independently of the Executive of the day. The first serious attempt in modern
Indonesia to establish such an agency was the National Commission of Human Rights, which
emerged in the early 1990s while the New Order's system of governance remained
insurmountable. Even so this Commission has generally been credited with being far more
independent of the Government than most commentators had expected at the time of its
establishment. The new General Elections Commission inherits a larger bureaucracy than the
Human Rights Commission and a clear mandate. While there will be the old tussle between
the Commission and the Executive over technical and perhaps some policy issues, I
nonetheless expect the KPU to be capable of functioning as an independent elections
management authority

{The footnotes in this document were added on 2 December 2008, as I reviewed the original document – all with the comforting distance of a decade of hind-sight! The comments are intended to provide both a little historic context that may now have been forgotten with time and also to provide some auto-criticism of where I believe my analysis was flawed or perhaps biased. From the original document I have also corrected typing mistakes and grammatical errors without changing the integrity and substance (be that accurate or idiotic) of what was initially written. The footnotes therefore do not represent part of the original document.}


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