Indonesia: The 2014 Legislative Elections

22 Apr, 2014    ·   4401

Aparupa Bhattacherjee suggests that the results demonstrate that a coalition is coming to power in Indonesia

Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Research Officer

The April 2014 elections in Indonesia are significant because they not only elect the members of the Regional Representative Council and the People’s Representative Council but also the political parties. A political party that achieves a majority (half or more than half the seats in the House) in the legislative elections will also have leverage in the presidential elections.

Race to the Finish Line
Of the 46 registered political parties, only twelve have passed the requirement of the Election Commission and contested for the 132 seats in the Regional Representative Council and 560 seats in the People’s Representative Council.
The rapid rise in corruption scandals and involvement of prominent political leaders such as Muhammad Nazaruddin and Andi Mallarangeng along with the people’s dissatisfaction with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made it evident that Partai Demokrat would not be coming back to power in 2014. There were high expectations from the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) under the leadership of Megawati Sukarnoputri that was in the opposition during the last government. The Partai Golkar that came second in the 2009 election was expected to suffer losses due to a corruption investigation of Ratu Atut Chosiyah, a prominent party cadre and governor of Banten.

Change was noticed in the campaigning style as most of the political parties shifted from the traditionally rally style (pawai) to the blusukan model which was first introduced to the Indonesian political society by Joko Widido during his campaign for the office of governor of Jakarta. This style of campaigning involves candidates visiting their voters personally, such as to their houses or meeting small groups of voters during the communal prayer meeting or in small discussions. Thus Indonesian voters were able to relate to their candidates in a better way in comparison to previous elections. However this did not ensure that there was no vote buying by the different political parties; this seems to be an integral part of the election process in Indonesia.

Election Results
Although the results are not yet declared, a quick-count by tally has made them quite evident.  The PDI-P is anticipated to win the election with 19 per cent of the vote that is likely to account for 106 to 118 seats. However, these numbers indicate that PDI-P has been unable to gain a clear majority. Joko Widodo (Jokowi), the governor of Jakarta who was the trump card for PDI-P was clearly unable to impress the voters to the extent that was assumed by both the national and international media. The party was confident of achieving 27 per cent of the total votes. The only reason the party failed might have been because although they were banking on the Jakarta governor, they had not projected him in their propaganda. The name of Jokowi as a presidential candidate was only declared after the legislative elections; furthermore, no party banners or rallies mentioned his name. The Partai Golkar surprisingly came second gaining 15 per cent of the votes. However, the election results do not indicate any significant change for them as they had achieved 14.5 per cent in the 2009 elections. The credit should be given to the charisma and financial influence of their chairman Aburizal Bakrie.

Two surprising elements in this election were the two parties, National Democratic Party (Nasdem) and the Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya (Gerindra Party). The Nasdem who were contesting for the first time under the leadership of Surya Paloh, a former Partai Golkar official, achieved 6.7 per cent of the vote. Although 6.7 is not a significant number it has to be taken into account that the party was formed only in 2011, and compared to the other parties in Indonesia, is newly born. The fact that Nasdem was able to win this per cent of votes can indicate that Indonesian voters are eagerly looking forward to a political party which is new and has a political platform, unlike most of the Indonesian political parties which solely depend on their leader’s personality and monetary strength. However, in the case of Gerindra Party, the personality of their leader or the so called ‘Prabowo effect’ has been a miracle resulting in the party gaining 12 per cent of the votes, up from the 4.5 per cent of 2009. The strategy that might have worked for this party is the extensive use of social media networks. The aggressive campaigning through Facebook and Twitter helped them to rope in a major chunk of the Indonesian vote bank - the youth - who are nearly 47 million in number. Moreover, it is also evident that Prabowo will be a strong competitor who has to be defeated by Joko Widodo of the PDI-P party in order come to power.

Thus, the results make it clear that a coalition is coming to power in Indonesia. However, whether this coalition can fulfil the expectations of the Indonesians will be answered only in time.