E17: Why Jokowi & Prabowo Need Other Parties

On this episode of Indonesia In-depth podcast, I provide background on why both President Widodo and Prabowo Subianto were required to have political coalitions to run as presidential candidates in the 2019 election. Here are the key episode takeaways:

Threshold Requirement

+ According to the 2017 Election law, any party that wishes to nominate a candidate for president must show that their party, or the coalition of parties backing the nominee, currently hold at least 20% of legislative seats, or got at least a quarter of the popular vote in the last election in 2014. None of the current parties meet the threshold on their own.

+ The 2014 legislative election results consisted of 12 parties competing with only 10 parties eventually winning seats. To obtain seats in parliament, parties had to receive at least 3.5% of the national vote.

+ The presidential election in 2014 had 2 tickets backed by two coalitions. Each of these two tickets had to be supported by a party or coalition of parties that reached 20% seats in the House, as no single party could meet the threshold on their own.

+ The threshold that’s included in the 2017 Election Law was quite controversial when it was deliberated in the House but it was eventually passed. The 2017 Election Law retained the same threshold of 20% House seats to nominate a presidential candidate as with the 2014 election.

+ Some parties and critics argued that there should be no threshold to nominate a presidential candidate as Indonesia uses a presidential system. The threshold has been challenged in the Constitutional court 6 times but the court rejected the requests and said the threshold is constitutional. 

Previous Elections

+ Indonesian politics has history of having many political parties since independence in 1945 and in the country’s first elections were in 1955.

+ In 1973, President Soeharto made a major policy change and forcibly consolidated all the political parties into three: Golkar, PDI and PPP. Of these three, the Golkar party represented the ruling party, and PPP represented the Islamic parties and PDI represented the rest of the parties.

+ After Reformasi or Reform period, which began in 1998, the system was changed, allowing once again for many more political parties to compete. Reformasi was the first few years after President Soeharto stepped down after 32 years of rule.

+ The 1999 election was the country’s first democratic elections since 1955. This was a very special election as it was the first election in a post-President Soeharto era. It was the first time in decades that voter’s voices were actually counted in the legislative election. The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) still elected the president rather than a direct voting system, which is used today. There were 48 parties competing in that election.

+ It was the first time in 2004 when voters directly elected their members of parliament, president and vice-president. This system continues to be in use today although there have been adjustments along the way.

+ Number of parties and tickets in recent elections:

  • The 2004 legislative election consisted of 24 parties competing for seats. The presidential election had 5 tickets backed by coalitions of parties.

  • The 2009 legislative election consisted of 38 parties competing. The presidential election had 3 tickets backed by coalitions of parties.

  • The 2014 legislative election consisted of 12 parties competing. The presidential election had 2 tickets backed by coalitions of parties.

+ For these elections, the legislative and presidential elections where held at different times. People first voted for their representatives and then three months later, voted on presidential tickets backed by coalitions. These tickets and coalitions were formed after the legislative election.

+ The presidential election requires the winner to receive at least 50% +1 vote, if not, a second round will be held.

+ The 2019 election process will be a bit different than previous elections and has some major changes in the election process.

+ The upcoming election will be a simultaneous election, which means, both legislative and presidential elections will be held at the same time on the same day. This change to the election is a big deal.

+ Previously the legislative elections where held separately about 3 months before the presidential elections and the results were instrumental for parties to access their seat strengths in the House and to then build coalitions accordingly. This will not be possible in next year’s election. Everything must be decided beforehand instead. Coalitions and tickets will be decided by August 10, 2018 or 8 months before the election in April 2019.

+ This election will have 16 parties competing for the House in 2019 and there will likely be two presidential tickets backed by coalitions of parties.

Pro & Con Threshold

+ There has been an on-going debate between supporters of the threshold and those against it. The big issue or controversy here is because the 2019 legislative and presidential elections will occur on the same day at the same time, and as a result, many believe that the threshold system should be eliminated entirely.

+ The pro-threshold supporters say that the threshold saying it improves the quality of candidates, as they must have a wide support base.

+ Other supporters says there needs to be some order and stability in the democracy and need some rules to avoid having too many parties. While others say that having many parties and presidential tickets are heavy burden on the state budget. 

+ Parties that support the 20% threshold are:

  • PDIP, Golkar, PPP, Hanura, PKB – PDIP and Golkar obviously would benefit from such a requirement as they are two largest parties in the country.

+ Parties against the threshold are:

  • Gerindra, Democrat, PAN and PKS, which called for a 0% threshold.

+ Those against the 20% threshold argue that this threshold encourages transactional politics, as parties that cannot reach the minimum seat requirement and end up buying support from other parties instead. They say that without a threshold, parties can nominate their own candidate thereby avoiding transactional politics.

+ Other critics argue that the threshold weakens the presidential system of Indonesia since the presidential candidates are held hostage by political parties in the parliament. They say that power between legislative and executive branches are separate and that the president is now directly elected by the people therefore, should not be dependent on what’s happening in the lower house.

+ The other argument is that new parties established after the 2014 election will be disenfranchised and unable to nominate a presidential candidate with the threshold of 20%.

+ The 2017 Election Law, which includes the threshold requirement, was passed with strong support from PDIP and Golkar lawmakers.

+ The Constitutional court has clearly decided in favor of the threshold for 2019 and that’s why all the parties must form coalitions to meet the 20% seat requirement.

Two Coalitions Battle for 2019

+ Currently there are two coalitions competing for the 2019 presidential election:

  • Government coalition supporting President Widodo for reelection which includes 9 parties:

  • PDIP, PPP, PKB, Golkar, Nasdem, PSI, Perindo, PKPI, and Hanura. PSI and PKPI are new parties and have no seats in the house as a result. These nine parties hold 60.3% seats currently in the House.

  • Gerindra’s coalition which supports Ret. Lt General Prabowo Subianto for president, consists of two parties:

  • The Gerindra and Democrat parties. Both of these parties are major players and combined currently hold 23.94 % seats.

+ This leaves two other parties PKS and PAN as undecided. PAN holds 8.8% and PKS holds 7.1% seats. It remains unclear which coalition they will support as both parties say they are prepared to support the Prabowo coalition but are demanding that Prabowo pick his VP from their parties, something that Prabowo is reluctant to do. Both parties are experiencing internal friction on how to maneuver if Prabowo declines their offer. PKS has even threatened to abstain from joining any coalition in the next election. This will be decided in the coming days.

+ The registration period for parties to submit their nominations for president are from August 4-10 this year. We will know by the evening of the 10th who exactly will be in the coalitions and who all the candidates are. 

Host: Shawn Corrigan
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