Indonesia Political System

Social foundations and national symbols

‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’, the ‘unity in diversity’, is the state motto of the modern Indonesian state. Although primarily related to the different ethnic groups, the Indonesian state motto is also applicable to the geographical conditions, the different religions and the historical development of the individual regions.

The attainment of independence and the existence of the Indonesian state are closely linked (as with the ‘Sumpah Pemuda’) to national unity. The Pancasila Doctrine, drafted and proclaimed by Sukarno in 1945, is the ideological basis of this unity.

With the 1999 electoral law, parties are no longer obliged (as in the Suharto era) to rely on the Pancasila as the sole ideological basis.

Form of government

According to businesscarriers, Indonesia is a presidential republic based on the 1945 constitution. The president, who has been elected directly by the people since 2004 (since 2014 Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi) is a representative of the executive branch and heads the cabinet he has appointed.

Despite 88% Muslims, Indonesia is not an Islamic state. However, it defines itself as religious. The first point of the state ideology is “belief in an almighty God”. A total of 6 religions are officially recognized: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism and Confucianism. According to the official definition, all of these religions believe in an Almighty God are therefore in accordance with the first point of the Pancasila.

Elections, parties, cabinet and parliament

The current Cabinet of President Joko Widodo is including 5 women from 34 ministers. Half of the ministers are independent, the others belong to 7 different parties represented in parliament. The military are also represented in the cabinet.

Vice-President in Joko Widodo’s first cabinet was Jusuf Kalla, who was President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono’s Vice-President during his first term in office. He was considered by many to be a doer and a proven connoisseur of the national political scene and was well able to compensate for the inexperience of Joko Widodo that had existed until he took office at the national level (Joko Widodo was first mayor of Solo and then governor of Jakarta). Fears that Yusuf Kalla, who is also very open-minded towards Islamist groups, will become the real puller because of his experience, do not come true.

Just 10 months after taking office in 2014, Joko Widodo reshuffled the cabinet of central economically relevant ministries in view of the weak economic data. In doing so, he evidently did not allow himself to be guided by partisan considerations.

In July 2016 there was a further reshuffle of the cabinet, which is viewed critically by many Indonesian human rights activists and foreign observers. In particular, the appointment of Wiranto, the former chief of staff to dictator Suharto, as coordinating minister for political and security issues, is viewed critically. Shortly after the 2019 election, a likely Islamist attack was carried out on Wiranto, which he survived with serious injuries. The new defense minister in Jokowi’s cabinet is now the ex-son-in-law Suhartos Prabowo Subianto, who has been accused of a number of human rights violations during Suharto’s tenure as a general.

The renewed appointment of the independent economist Sri Mulyani as finance minister in Joko Widodo’s cabinet, after an initial term under Susilo Bambang Yudoyono, met with broad approval. Sri Mulyani had made a name for himself not only through wise financial policies, but also through rigorous action against corruption.

Some of the non-party ministers originally served in civil society institutions.

The parliamentary superstructure of Indonesia consists of the MPR (Constituent Assembly – Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat), the DPR (Legislative Parliament – Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat) and the DPD (Regional Chamber – Dewan Perwakilan Daerah).

The 34 provinces of Indonesia are represented in the Regional Chamber (DPD) created in 2004. Regardless of their size, each province sends up to four directly elected members. The regional chamber primarily exercises a control and advisory function on questions of provincial autonomy.

The constituent assembly (MPR) consists of the 550 members of the legislative parliament (DPR) and the 128 members of the regional chamber (DPD).

Since 2004 the people’s assembly no longer determines the guidelines of politics. The mandate of the MPR is largely limited to constitutional issues and the inauguration and removal from office of the President and Vice-President of the Republic.

Since 2003 Indonesia has also had a Constitutional Court (MKRI), which made many courageous decisions, especially in the early years – such as enabling former communists to be elected to party lists.

The 34 provinces have their own provincial parliaments (DPRD), which elect a governor to be confirmed by the president.

Political parties were founded in Indonesia 30 years before independence was proclaimed. Numerous parties were banned under Sukarno and Suharto, while others were merged into new parties. From 1971 until the fall of Suharto (May 21, 1998) there were only 3 bloc parties (Golkar, PDI, PPP). New parties were only allowed under Suharto’s successor, Habibie. In the first free parliamentary elections (1999), 48 parties were allowed.

For the 2004 election, only 24 parties had, because of a new electoral law, qualified. In 2009 there were 38 parties.

In 2014 only 12 parties took part in the national elections, of which only 10 got into parliament due to a 2.5% hurdle. In 2019, 14 parties took part, 9 of which moved into the new parliament (DPR).

In order to be able to take part in the national elections with a party, high initial investments are required, since the parties must be represented in almost all provinces. This and the largely legally unregulated financing of parties lead to considerable influence from the military, old elites and the economy in many parties.

The practice of buying votes has increased in recent years.

Presidential election