Indonesian party lists

Indonesia is the largest jurisdiction using an all party-list proportional representation system for its first (‘lower’) house. ((The runner-up is Brazil.)) 2009 will be an election year. According to the Jakarta Post:

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has, after some delays, finally published the preliminary list of 11,868 legislative candidates for the total 560 seats in the 2009 elections.

Now that is a lot of candidates! I shall have to ask my RAs to begin entering all of the candidate’s names, birthplaces, and prior electoral experience!

The Jakarta Post interviews Ani W. Soetjipto of the University of Indonesia about the election preparations. Here are a few highlights:

Question: How do you see the composition of the interim list of legislative candidates in terms of competencies?

Answer: In general, some parties submitted names for the list only for the sake of filling it. Their competency was not the main consideration. For new parties, I think (the problem is) they’re not ready to enlist enough candidates to reach the maximum of 120 percent of the total (560) seats at stake, and place candidates in each of the 77 electoral districts. That is why some parties are not running candidates in some electoral districts.

Unfortunately, the seven or eight relatively well-established older parties have made it seem that they’re only after the short-term goal of winning as many votes as possible when enlisting their candidates. Most of their candidates are popular figures expected to win votes.

I’ve also noticed a nepotism phenomenon, in which wives, children or children-in-law of party elites can be found in many parties’ lists of candidates. They looked for figures simply based on their popularity and not on their competency.

As one might imagine from such statements, the lists permit the voter to cast a candidate-preference vote. It remains unclear to me whether the lists are fully open (i.e. preference votes alone determine the order of election) or flexible/semi-closed (i.e. the preference votes only change a party-ranked ballot order when individual candidates reach some, usually rather high, threshold of votes). I think the latter (and I hope someone can confirm/correct). However, another comment by Soetjipto suggests that there is a party option in how to count the preference votes. The remark (which I put in bold in the following quote) comes within an answer to a question about the employment of quotas for women on the lists:

Only four parties failed to fulfill the 30 percent quota. But, if we look at the details, female candidates are not running in every electoral district. Parties have 30 percent of women from their total candidates across all the districts, although what the law mandates is 30 percent in each district.

Secondly, the system of placing female candidates alternately in the list. Parties still put women at number 3, 6, 9 and so on, on the list. Some are placed at number 1, but that also doesn’t automatically give them a bigger chance of winning. For example, the Golkar Party has 13 female candidates at the top of (13) electoral district lists, but they can’t automatically win because Golkar selects candidates based on a majority vote, not on the party ranking. The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) adopts the ranking system, but it has only three female candidates at the top of electoral district lists.

I think the chance that women’s representation will be improved in the 2009 elections is still small. Judging from the available data, there are only 27 female candidates who can surely win the elections.

Another question from the interview:

With such a list, what do you think will be the impact on the quality of the next House of Representatives?

I don’t expect that the 2009-2014 House will be much better than the current one. Not only because of the (quality) of the legislative candidates offered by parties, but also because of other conditions, including that the wider public is not well aware of the publication of the interim list of candidates. How many people know and care about scrutinizing the list?

A good question, and one that we could use some research on, and not only for Indonesia!

0 thoughts on “Indonesian party lists

  1. Indonesia is using a flexible list system. They are still trying to decide how flexible they want the list to be though. At the national level, I don’t think preference voting ended up disturbing any lists in 2004. Legislative candidates needed to make quota (total district votes / magnitude) to ensure election through preference votes. The highest magnitude was 12, and given the large number of competitive parties the opportunity for candidates to actually make quota was quite low. They have revised the electoral law recently and now candidates can disturb the list by achieving only 30% of quota (though there is some talk of revising this law again before the election). A number of parties have declared they will operate as if the system was fully open and have asked candidates to pre-sign resignation letters so seats can be distributed by the parties purely on the basis of preference votes. It is hard to tell how legal this move is and whether the parties will actually live up to it.

    Quick request: Once your army of RAs has combed through the vital background info of all 11,868 of the proposed candidates be sure to email me the data. Is a delivery date of 2018 optimistic?

  2. When Soeharto seized power he inherited a multiparty system. He then exterminated the communist PKI, and forced the other parties to regroup into 2 opposition parties while he established Golkar as an overreaching party of everyone resembling the PRI in Mexico.

    Throughout the Soeharto dictatorship the government intefered frequently in the affairs of the opposition parties to force them to run candidates acceptable to the government. Megawati’s party, the PDI-P for example, formed out of the the old PDI when the security forces seized control of the PDI machinery by force to stop the party running her for president.

    Its probably quite deep in the political culture that has emerged since reformasi that you don’t limit the number of parties or candidates in any way.

  3. Jakarta Post reports today that Golkar has committed to determining its candidates’ rank solely by preference votes. However, the piece also implies that a completely closed list is also a party option.

    “The party’s central board will not intervene, and candidates with the most votes will automatically win seats,” said Golkar deputy secretary-general Rully Chairul Azwar.

    He added that to avoid unhealthy competition among candidates, Golkar had issued a regulation preventing candidates in the same electoral district from conducting smear campaigns against each other.

    Earlier, scores of Golkar politicians questioned the party’s policy of allocating House seats to winning candidates based on a numerical system, in which those at the top of the candidate list are automatically given House seats, regardless of the number of votes they win.

    This closed system, the critics said, allowed Golkar leaders’ loyalists and cronies to be placed at the top of the list, thus creating resentment within the party.

    Apparently the preference vote is optional:

    The party also decided that ballots in which voters punch only the party’s logo rather than the names or photos of candidates, would not be allocated to any individual candidate.

    “The unallocated votes will only determine how many seats Golkar will get in a certain electoral district. The regulation remains in force that candidates will be elected based on the most votes they get, no matter how little, as long as Golkar meets the threshold needed to get a seat in the district,” Rully said.

  4. Now that we’re (almost) clear on Indonesia’s system, it’s been changed by the Constutitional Court.

    “effectively altering the mechanism to a semi-open-list proportional representative system . . . The court ruled that legislative candidates with the highest number of votes in a particular district would automatically win the seat on offer, rather than use the party-determined list system currently in place. . . if the Golkar Party, for instance, passes the national threshold and in the West Java I district (which has seven seats) wins 65 percent of votes, it can claim at least four seats in that district. The top four Golkar candidates who performed best in that district win seats.

    ” . . . the Constitutional Court has also failed to look at the long-term downside of intra-party conflict. It also opens up the “hazards” of popularity over populism in determining voter choice and dramatically undermines a party’s ability to ideologically orient either its candidates or voters.

    “For parties like the National Mandate Party (PAN), Golkar and the Democratic Party, the amendment of the election system will have little bearing because they have previously agreed internally to allow candidates with the most votes to get seats.”

    (Is this a system where parties choose candidates from the list only after the election? I thought Nepal was the only country in the world to do this.)

    “It was a pragmatic decision, thereby transferring much of the onus of a high-cost election to the respective candidates. As candidates fend for themselves, parties lose little, because the superseding proportional representation system and national threshold ensure effective party control. Not surprisingly, parties such as the PAN have tried to leverage their popularity by soliciting the most number of celebrities in their ranks — people with high recognition and mass appeal, yet low on internal political clout.”

    I don’t have time to research the fine details of what this means in practice. Help!

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