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

Second, political representation is not effectively carried out due to the question of who represents the constituents: political parties or members of the House. As a result, political parties and winning candidates per­form only formal representation roles while civil society organizations, for example, per­form substantive ones.

Third, there is uncertainty regarding uni­cameral and bicameral political representa­tion, as well as uncertainty between people’s representation and representatives’ account­ability.

Fourth, many political parties in the House of Representatives behave as if Indonesia has a parliamentary system, and President Yudhoyono, as the leader of a presi­dential system, is overwhelmed by political pressure within the DPR. The president’s ruling Democratic Party controls only 26 percent of seats, so to gain necessary support for his policies, Yudhoyono created a cabinet where half of the 34 positions are held by members of a six-party coalition. Yet since the 2009 presidential election, the coali­tion’s leadership is more transactional than transformative. A number of political parties whose members hold ministerial posts in the cabinet (not including the Democratic Party) oppose government policies more often than the three political parties in the formal opposition. In effect, it is not uncom­mon for the government to be divided, not only executive versus legislative but also the president versus ministers from other politi­cal parties.

Fifth, the presidential system at both the national and regional levels is not effective, and as such the public has not seen signifi­cant results. There are at least two indica­tors of effective presidential government: public policies agreed by both the president and the House that reflect the people’s in­terests, and the implementation of those policies. Ineffective presidential governance occurs not only because Yudhoyono has not had solid support from the House of Representatives, but also because his political leadership has not been successful in harvest­ing support from all elements of civil society – as well as the 61 percent the electorate that voted for him in 2009.

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