Understanding the flaws in Indonesia's electoral democracy
January-March 2014
By: Ramlan Surbakti

Sixth, to reduce the number of parties in the parliament, a 3.5 percent threshold was created. However, at the same time, the elec­tion law adopts three elements of an elec­toral system that enables political parties to secure seats. The three elements are: size of a constituency, a proportional electoral formu­la using the Hare quota method while out­standing seats are allocated to parties based on remaining plurality of votes, and an elec­tion calendar that has three months between the legislative and presidential elections.

Seventh, even though Indonesia has a presi­dential system, its legislative election is held prior to the presidential election. Political parties turn into political event organizers, while candidates run as election participants. As the role of election participants shifts to candidates, party discipline decreases (elected candidates feel more legitimate than the par­ties).

To have an effective presidential system, presidential and legislative elections need to be held simultaneously so that a president’s policies contribute to the development of a moderate pluralist party system. At the same time, party discipline needs to improve. What we are witnessing today is two government systems: political parties showing parliamen­tary behavior in the legislature and presiden­tial behavior within the executive.

Aside from containing a number of in­consistent elements, the proportional electoral system potentially lures candidates, voters and/or election officials to be in­volved in vote-buying. If money is used to gain a position then that position will one day be abused to seek monetary gain.

Indonesia’s proportional electoral system contains contradictory elements that help create a deficient democratic political sys­tem. First, the focus of political parties (and their candidates) is to seek and maintain power through election, including through vote-buying, rather than by performing their functions as political representatives. Furthermore, political parties both internally and externally lack democratic management. In the end, parties should not only be ac­countable to their members but also their constituents.

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