Indonesia Domestic Politics Part III

There are currently even attempts to declare Suharto an official Indonesian national hero, but these are met with considerable resistance, especially from human rights activists. His son Tommy Suharto, who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for murder in 2004 – but only had to serve 4 years because of “good conduct”, is now active again in politics and in 2019 campaigned as chairman of his Berkarya party, where his party could not win seats in parliament. Suharto’s daughter Siti Hardijanti Rukmana (called Mbak Tutut) also tried her hand at the political arena – albeit with rather moderate success.

The same applies to the processing of human rights violations by the military in East Timor. All attempts to bring Suharto to justice failed. After Suharto died a free man in January 2008, the chances of a profound reappraisal of the serious human rights violations committed under his rule decreased. Susilo Bambang Yudoyono, who was a 3-star army general under Suharto, declared a seven-day state mourning on the occasion of Suharto’s death.

Domestic political controversies also occur again and again about how to deal with the influence of business people of Chinese origin, who play a dominant role in many business areas. Reservations about the Chinese are widespread among the population. In the Republic of Indonesia there have been more or less severe attacks against the Chinese since 1945. It was therefore seen as a good sign that Jokowi’s former lieutenant governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (called Ahok) was able to take the position of governor in Jakarta, although he is both Chinese and Christian. Ahok found himself on an increasing course of confrontation with violent Islamist groups such as the “Front of the Defenders of Islam” (FPI) and ended up in prison in 2017 on charges of “blasphemy”.

Nevertheless, today – for the first time since Suharto came to power – there is lively Chinese life in the public again.

Parliamentary elections

According to constructmaterials, in Indonesia, the FREP is elected by proportional representation. In the 2004 elections, Golkar, the former ruling party of Suharto, emerged as the clear winner with 21.6% of the vote. President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s party suffered significant losses. In 2009 it was the Partai Democrat of incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudoyono. President Joko Widodo’s PDIP party has been the strongest party since 2014.

The 2004, 2009 and 2014 and 2019 elections were largely free, fair and transparent. They have led to a consolidation of democracy in Indonesia. The improved political conditions make a return to an autocratic regime such as the ‘New Order’ appear very unlikely.

In the parliamentary elections of April 2009, the Partai Democrat of the then incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono won, almost tripling its share of the vote with 20.85%. Golkar, so far the strongest party with 21.6% of the vote, dropped to around 14.45% of the vote. The PDI-P, the party of ex-president Megawati Sukarnoputri, had to accept another loss of votes. It landed in third place with 14.03% of the vote.

The three largest groups in Parliament were thus secular parties. The losers in the elections were the Islamic parties PKS, PAN and PPP with a total of 19% of the votes (2004: 32%). The weakness of the Islamic parties can also be explained by the fact that many of their positions have now been taken over by secular parties.

The PKB of the now deceased ex-President Abdurrahman Wahid received only 4.94% of the vote.

In addition, Gerindra and Hanura, two predominantly nationalist parties led by former Suharto generals, made it into parliament.

In 2014, Nasdem, a party founded by media tycoon Surya Paloh, made it into parliament for the first time.

In 2019, out of 16 parties, only 9 made it into the DPR Parliament. No new party managed to get seats in parliament.

The distribution of seats in parliament after the 2019 elections was as follows:

  • Partai Democrat with 54 seats
  • Golkar with 85 seats
  • PDI-P with 109 seats
  • PKS with 50 seats
  • PAN with 44 seats
  • 19-seat PPP
  • PKB with 58 seats
  • Gerindra with 78 seats
  • Hanura with 16 seats
  • Nasdem with 59 seats

The turnout in national elections has continued to decline in recent years: in 1999 it was 92.7%, in 2004 it was 84.7% and in 2009 it was 68.4%. In 2014 it increased again to 72% and in 2019 to around 80%.

However, lower scores are still achieved in regional elections.

The new parliament met for the first time on October 1, 2014. President Joko Widodo’s coalition did not initially have a majority of its own in parliament. However, this changed in 2015 as more parties began to work with the incumbent government.

In the 2019 elections, 16 parties ran on April 17, 2019, including four new parties that did not move into parliament. One of them was the Berkarya party of Tommy Suharto – the son of dictator Suharto – who was once sentenced to 15 years in prison for murder. He and his party benefited from an increasing transfiguration of his father’s regime. Among the four parties was the obviously promising Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), which primarily addressed younger, educated voters and clearly distanced itself from the old elites.

Basically, there is no clear “right-left” scheme into which Indonesian parties can be classified. A “left” is missing due to the events of 1965/1966 and a continued strong rejection of positions that are considered socialist or communist inspired.

Simultaneously with the parliamentary elections, the election of the president and many provincial and district parliaments took place. Due to the many simultaneous elections, complicated electoral system, the publication of the final election results usually takes up to a month. The number of parliamentarians was increased to 575 in 2019.

Election poster for the election of a district head