AbstractsPolitical Science

Indonesian democracy: the impact of electoral systemson political parties, 1999–2009

by Reni Suwarso

Institution: Victoria University
Year: 2016
Keywords: 1606 Political Science; College of Arts
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2064244
Full text PDF: http://vuir.vu.edu.au/31051/


This study analyses the impact of electoral systems and electoral mechanics on political parties and party systems, 1999–2009. Throughout this period, Indonesia conducted nearly 500 elections. These elections have their own systems (proportional representation, SNTV (Single Non-Transferable Vote) and majoritarian systems) and each has different mechanics (ballot structure, electoral threshold, electoral formula and district magnitude). They are conducted in the same political, social and cultural environment and are participated in by the same parties and voters. This study was conducted as qualitative research and involved elite interviews with 75 informants during fieldwork in the provinces of DKI-Jakarta, West Java, East Java, South Sulawesi and Riau Islands. This study shows that institutions do matter and electoral systems and electoral mechanics are powerful instruments for institutional engineering with far-reaching impacts for parties and party systems. However, institutionalism has difficulty in explaining the various different processes, unforeseen problems and unexpected impacts. It finds that the changes to electoral systems and electoral mechanics since reformasi 1998 have restored the importance of elections, whereby the ruling elite are no longer able to legitimise themselves through methods other than elections. The importance of political parties has been reinstated by granting them exclusive authority in determining who will control the government and dominate the political system. However, this study finds that practices, such as money politics, vote buying and abuse of authority remained; older figures, such as former members of Golkar, senior government officials and retired military officers, dominated electoral results. Moreover, this study also finds that parties tend to focus more on activities related directly to the conduct of elections rather than representing different ideologies and diversity in society. Even though elections and political parties are crucial determinants of Indonesia’s politics, they are not sufficient in and of themselves for building Indonesian representative democracy.