Politics of Indonesia

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National emblem of Indonesia Garuda Pancasila.svg
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The politics of Indonesia take place in the framework of a presidential representative democratic republic whereby the President of Indonesia is both head of state and head of government and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two People's Representative Councils. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.[1]

The 1945 constitution provided for a limited separation of executive, legislative and judicial power. The governmental system has been described as "presidential with parliamentary characteristics".[2] Following the Indonesian riots of May 1998 and the resignation of President Suharto, several political reforms were set in motion via amendments to the Constitution of Indonesia, which resulted in changes to all branches of government.

The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Indonesia as a "flawed democracy" in 2016.[3]


Liberal Democracy and Guided Democracy[edit]

An era of Liberal Democracy (Indonesian: Demokrasi Liberal) in Indonesia began on August 17, 1950 following the dissolution of the federal United States of Indonesia less than a year after its formation, and ended with the imposition of martial law and President Sukarno's 1959 Decree regarding the introduction of Guided Democracy (Indonesian: Demokrasi Terpimpin) on July 5. It saw a number of important events, including the 1955 Bandung Conference, Indonesia's first general and Constitutional Assembly elections, and an extended period of political instability, with no cabinet lasting as long as two years.

From 1957, the Guided Democracy was the political system in place until the New Order began in 1966. It was the brainchild of President Sukarno, and was an attempt to bring about political stability. He believed that Western-style democracy was inappropriate for Indonesia's situation. Instead, he sought a system based on the traditional village system of discussion and consensus, which occurred under the guidance of village elders.

Transition to the New Order[edit]

The transition to the "New Order" in the mid-1960s, ousted Sukarno after 22 years in the position. One of the most tumultuous periods in the country's modern history, it was the commencement of Suharto's three-decade presidency. Described as the great dhalang ("puppet master"), Sukarno drew power from balancing the opposing and increasingly antagonistic forces of the army and the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI).

By 1965, the PKI extensively penetrated all levels of government and gained influence at the expense of the army.[4] On 30 September 1965, six of the military's most senior officers were killed in an action (generally labelled an "attempted coup") by the so-called 30 September Movement, a group from within the armed forces. Within a few hours, Major General Suharto mobilised forces under his command and took control of Jakarta. Anti-communists, initially following the army's lead, went on a violent purge of communists throughout the country, killing an estimated half million people and destroying the PKI, which was officially blamed for the crisis.[5][6]

The politically weakened Sukarno was forced to transfer key political and military powers to General Suharto, who had become head of the armed forces. In March 1967, the Indonesian parliament (MPRS) named General Suharto acting president. He was formally appointed president one year later. Sukarno lived under virtual house arrest until his death in 1970. In contrast to the stormy nationalism, revolutionary rhetoric, and economic failure that characterised the early 1960s under the left-leaning Sukarno, Suharto's pro-Western "New Order" stabilised the economy but continued the policies of Pancasila.

New Order[edit]

The New Order (Indonesian: Orde Baru) is the term coined by President Suharto to characterise his regime as he came to power in 1966. He used this term to contrast his rule with that of his predecessor, Sukarno (dubbed the "Old Order," or Orde Lama). The term "New Order" in more recent times has become synonymous with the Suharto years (1966–1998).

Immediately following the attempted coup in 1965, the political situation was uncertain, but the New Order found much popular support from groups wanting a separation from Indonesia's problems since its independence. The 'generation of 66' (Angkatan 66) epitomised talk of a new group of young leaders and new intellectual thought. Following communal and political conflicts, and economic collapse and social breakdown of the late 1950s through to the mid-1960s, the New Order was committed to achieving and maintaining political order, economic development, and the removal of mass participation in the political process. The features of the New Order established from the late 1960s were thus a strong political role for the military, the bureaucratisation and corporatisation of political and societal organisations, and selective but effective repression of opponents. Strident anti-communism remained a hallmark of the regime for its subsequent 32 years.

Within a few years, however, many of its original allies had become indifferent or averse to the New Order, which comprised a military faction supported by a narrow civilian group. Among much of the pro-democracy movement which forced Suharto to resign in 1998 and then gained power, the term "New Order" has come to be used pejoratively. It is frequently employed to describe figures who were either tied to the New Order, or who upheld the practises of his authoritarian regime, such as corruption, collusion and nepotism (widely known by the acronym KKN: korupsi, kolusi, nepotisme).[7]

Reform era[edit]

Map showing the parties/organisations with the largest vote share per province in Indonesia's elections from 1971 to 2014

The Post-Suharto era began with the fall of Suharto in 1998 during which Indonesia has been in a period of transition, an era known as Reformasi (English: Reform[8][9][10]). This period has seen a more open and liberal political-social environment.

A process of constitutional reform lasted from 1999 to 2002, with four amendments producing major changes.[11] Among these are term limits of up to 2 five-year terms for the President and Vice-President, and measures to institute checks and balances. The highest state institution is the People's Consultative Assembly (Indonesian: Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat, MPR), whose functions previously included electing the president and vice-president (since 2004 the president has been elected directly by the people), establishing broad guidelines of state policy, and amending the constitution. The 695-member MPR includes all 550 members of the People's Representative Council (Indonesian: Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR) plus 130 members of Regional Representative Council (Indonesian: Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, DPD) elected by the 26 provincial parliaments and 65 appointed members from societal groups.[12]

The DPR, which is the premier legislative institution, originally included 462 members elected through a mixed proportional/district representational system and thirty-eight appointed members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and police (POLRI). TNI/POLRI representation in the DPR and MPR ended in 2004. Societal group representation in the MPR was eliminated in 2004 through further constitutional change.[13][14] Having served as rubberstamp bodies in the past, the DPR and MPR have gained considerable power and are increasingly assertive in oversight of the executive branch. Under constitutional changes in 2004, the MPR became a bicameral legislature, with the creation of the DPD, in which each province is represented by four members, although its legislative powers are more limited than those of the DPR. Through his/her appointed cabinet, the president retains the authority to conduct the administration of the government.[15]

A general election in June 1999 produced the first freely elected national, provincial and regional parliaments in over 40 years. In October 1999, the MPR elected a compromise candidate, Abdurrahman Wahid, as the country's fourth president, and Megawati Sukarnoputri—a daughter of Sukarno—as the vice-president. Megawati's PDI-P party had won the largest share of the vote (34%) in the general election, while Golkar, the dominant party during the New Order, came in second (22%). Several other, mostly Islamic parties won shares large enough to be seated in the DPR. Further democratic elections took place in 2004, 2009 and 2014.

The Indonesian political system before and after the constitutional amendments

Executive branch[edit]

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Joko Widodo Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle 20 October 2014
Vice President Jusuf Kalla No Party 20 October 2014

The President and Vice-President are selected by vote of the citizens for a maximum of two five-year terms. The President is the head of state, commander-in-chief of the TNI and responsible for domestic governance and policy-making and foreign affairs. The President appoints a cabinet, who do not have to be elected members of the legislature.[16] Prior to 2004, they were chosen by the MPR. The last election was held on 9 July 2014, out of which Joko Widodo emerged as the winner. The current President heads the Kabinet Kerja.

Legislative branch[edit]

The legislative building complex.

The MPR is the legislative branch in Indonesia's political system. Following elections in 2004, it became a bicameral parliament, with the creation of the DPD as its second chamber in an effort to increase regional representation.[17] The DPD is the upper house of the MPR, while DPR is the lower house, sometimes referred to as the House of Representatives, which has 560 members, elected for a five-year term by proportional representation in multi-member constituencies.

Political parties and elections[edit]

The General Elections Commission (Indonesian: Komisi Pemilihan Umum, KPU) is the body responsible for running both parliamentary and presidential elections. Article 22E(5) of the Constitution rules that the KPU is national, permanent, and independent. Prior to the 2004 elections, the KPU was made up of members who were also members of political parties. However, members of KPU must now be non-partisan.

e • d Summary of 9 July 2014 Indonesian presidential election result[18]
Candidate Running mate Parties Votes %
Joko Widodo Jusuf Kalla Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia-Perjuangan) 70,997,833 53.15
Prabowo Subianto Hatta Rajasa Great Indonesia Movement Party (Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya) 62,576,444 46.85
Total 133,574,277 100.00
Valid votes 133,574,277 98.98
Spoilt and null votes 1,379,690 1.02
Turnout 134,953,967 69.58
Abstentions 58,990,183 30.42
Registered voters 193,944,150
Source: KPU
e • d Summary of the 9 April 2014 Indonesian People's Representative Council election results
Parties Votes % Swing Seats % +/-
Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan, PDI–P) 23,681,471 18.95 Increase4.92 109 19.47 Increase15
Party of the Functional Groups (Partai Golongan Karya, Golkar) 18,432,312 14.75 Increase0.30 91 16.25 Decrease15
Great Indonesia Movement Party (Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya, Gerindra) 14,760,371 11.81 Increase7.35 73 13.04 Increase47
Democratic Party (Partai Demokrat, PD) 12,728,913 10.19 Decrease10.66 61 10.89 Decrease87
National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional, PAN) 9,481,621 7.59 Increase1.58 49 8.75 Increase3
National Awakening Party (Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa, PKB) 11,298,957 9.04 Increase4.10 47 8.39 Increase19
Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera, PKS) 8,480,204 6.79 Decrease1.09 40 7.14 Decrease17
United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan, PPP) 8,157,488 6.53 Increase1.21 39 6.96 Increase1
Nasdem Party (Partai Nasdem, Nasdem) 8,402,812 6.72 New 35 6.25 New
People's Conscience Party (Partai Hati Nurani Rakyat, Hanura) 6,579,498 5.26 Increase1.49 16 2.86 Decrease1
Crescent Star Party (Partai Bulan Bintang, PBB) 1,825,750 1.46 Decrease0.33 0 0.00 Steady
Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (Partai Keadilan dan Persatuan Indonesia, PKPI) 1,143,094 0.91 Increase0.01 0 0.00 Steady
Total 124,972,491 100.00 Steady 560 100.00 Steady
Spoilt and null votes 14,601,436 7.86 Decrease6.57
Voter turnout 139,573,927 75.11 Increase4.12
Electorate 185,826,024
Source: General Election Commission[citation needed] and People's Representative Council website[citation needed]
Note: Seat change totals are displayed only for parties which stood in the previous election, including those which changed party names
Parties contesting in Aceh only
Aceh Party (Partai Aceh)
Aceh National Party (Partai Nasional Aceh, PNA) New
Aceh Peace Party (Partai Damai Aceh, PDA) New
Source: [19][20][21][22][23]

Note: 1. Results are pending to appeals made in the Constitutional Court.
2. Aceh local parties only contested for the regional legislative assemblies, not the DPR. Results are included here for completeness. The remainder of the votes were won by national parties.

Judicial branch[edit]

The Indonesian Supreme Court (Indonesian: Mahkamah Agung) is the highest level of the judicial branch. Its judges are appointed by the president. The Constitutional Court (Indonesian: Mahkamah Konstitusi) rules on constitutional and political matters, while a Judicial Commission (Indonesian: Komisi Yudisial) oversees the judges.[24]

Foreign relations[edit]

During the regime of president Suharto, Indonesia built strong relations with the United States and had difficult relations with the People's Republic of China owing to Indonesia's anti-communist policies and domestic tensions with the Chinese community. It received international denunciation for its annexation of East Timor in 1978. Indonesia is a founding member of the Association of South East Asian Nations, and thereby a member of both ASEAN+3 and the East Asia Summit.

Since the 1980s, Indonesia has worked to develop close political and economic ties between Southeast Asian countries, and is also influential in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Indonesia was heavily criticised between 1975 and 1999 for allegedly suppressing human rights in East Timor, and for supporting violence against the East Timorese following the latter's secession and independence in 1999. Since 2001, the government of Indonesia has co-operated with the US in cracking down on Islamic fundamentalism and terrorist groups.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ King, Blair. A Inside Indonesia:Constitutional tinkering: The search for consensus is taking time Archived 29 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine. access date 23 May 2009
  2. ^ King, Blair. A Inside Indonesia:Constitutional tinkering: The search for consensus is taking time Archived 29 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine. access date 23 May 2009
  3. ^ solutions, EIU digital. "Democracy Index 2016 - The Economist Intelligence Unit". www.eiu.com. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  4. ^ Ricklefs (1991), pp. 271-283
  5. ^ Chris Hilton (writer and director) (2001). Shadowplay (Television documentary). Vagabond Films and Hilton Cordell Productions.; Ricklefs (1991), pages 280–283, 284, 287–290
  6. ^ Robert Cribb (2002). "Unresolved Problems in the Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966". Asian Survey. 42 (4): 550–563. doi:10.1525/as.2002.42.4.550.; Friend (2003), page 107-109, 113.
  7. ^ Stop talk of KKN Archived 26 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine.. The Jakarta Post (24 August 2001).
  8. ^ US Indonesia Diplomatic and Political Cooperation Handbook, Int'l Business Publications, 2007, ISBN 1433053306, page CRS-5
  9. ^ Robin Bush, Nahdlatul Ulama and the Struggle for Power Within Islam and Politics in Indonesia, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2009, ISBN 9812308768, page 111
  10. ^ Ryan Ver Berkmoes, Lonely Planet Indonesia, 2010, ISBN 1741048303, page 49
  11. ^ Denny Indrayana (2008), pp. 360-361
  12. ^ Denny Indrayana (2008), pp. 361-362
  13. ^ Denny Indrayana (2008), pp. 293-296
  14. ^ "Indonesia's military: Business as usual". 16 August 2002.
  15. ^ Denny Indrayana (2008), pp. 265, 361, 441
  16. ^ Denny Indrayana (2008), pp. 361, 443, 440
  17. ^ Denny Indrayana (2008), pp. 264-265, 367
  18. ^ The Jakarta Post (22 July 2014). "Jokowi named president-elect". Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  19. ^ Inggried Dwi Wedhaswary. "PDI-P Pemenang Pemilu Legislatif 2014" (in Indonesian). Kompas. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  20. ^ http://www.kpu.go.id/koleksigambar/952014_SK_KPU_411.pdf
  21. ^ http://www.kpu.go.id/koleksigambar/952014_SK_KPU_412.pdf
  22. ^ Palupi Annisa Auliani. "Lebih dari 14 Juta Suara Pemilu Legislatif 2014 Rusak?" (in Indonesian). Kompas. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  23. ^ Deytri Robekka Aritonang. "Ini Sebaran Kursi Partai di 33 Provinsi" (in Indonesian). Kompas. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  24. ^ Denny Indrayana (2008), p266 - 267

Further reading[edit]

  • Denny Indrayana (2008) Indonesian Constitutional Reform 1999-2002: An Evaluation of Constitution-Making in Transition, Kompas Book Publishing, Jakarta ISBN 978-979-709-394-5
  • O'Rourke, Kevin. 2002. Reformasi: the struggle for power in post-Soeharto Indonesia. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-754-8
  • Schwarz, Adam. 2000. A nation in waiting: Indonesia's search for stability. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3650-3

External links[edit]