Legislative power vested in People’s Representative Council (DPR) and less-powerful upper house, Regional Representative Council (DPD). People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), which formerly elected the president and vice president, now joint sitting of the DPR and DPD but retains separate powers restricted to swearing in president and vice president, amending constitution, and having final say in impeachment process. Newly decentralized power of subnational authorities enshrined and delineated in amended constitution. Numerous political parties; Democrat Party (PD), Partai Golkar (Golkar Party), and Indonesian Democracy Party–Struggle (PDI–P) gained largest number of DPR seats in 2009 election. [Source: Library of Congress *]
Legislature: The House of Representatives (DPR) is a parliament with 560 seats. The upper house has 128 seats . After Suharto was ousted, the DPR had 500 seats (462 elected seats and 38 armed forces seats). Today all 550 seats are elected. No seats are reserved fore the military. Under Suharto, the DRP was a rubber stamp body that ratified decisions already made by Suharto. Seventy five places were reserved for the military and only 40 percent of the members were elected. It was dominated by Suharto's Golkar Party. Over time it has evolved into a body that passes legislation and debates issues.
People's Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat or MPR) is the upper house; it consists of members of the DPR and DPD and has role in inaugurating and impeaching the president and in amending the constitution but does not formulate national policy; House of Representatives or Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR) (560 seats, members elected to serve five-year terms), formulates and passes legislation at the national level; House of Regional Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah or DPD), constitutionally mandated role includes providing legislative input to DPR on issues affecting regions (132 members, four from each of Indonesia's origianal 30 provinces, two special regions, and one special capital city district)
Elections were held in 2014 (the next are in 2019) . The results of the legislative one in April 2009 (percent of vote by party): PD 20.9 percent, GOLKAR 14.5 percent, PDI-P 14.0 percent, PKS 7.9 percent, PAN 6.0 percent, PPP 5.3 percent, PKB 4.9 percent, GERINDRA 4.5 percent, HANURA 3.8 percent, others 18.2 percent; seats by party - PD 148, GOLKAR 107, PDI-P 94, PKS 57, PAN 46, PPP 37, PKB 28, GERINDRA 26, HANURA 17. Twenty-nine other parties received less than 2.5 percent of the vote so did not obtain any seats; because of election rules, the number of seats won does not always follow the percentage of votes received by parties [Source: CIA World Factbook]
People’s Representative Council (DPR): Indonesian Main Legislative Body
Primary legislative authority is constitutionally vested in the People’s Representative Council (DPR; often referred to as the House of Representatives), which had 500 members in 1999, 550 members in 2004, and 560 members in 2009. Members are elected for a five-year term from multimember districts under an open-list system of proportional representation. These electoral districts consist either of whole provinces (propinsi) or of several municipalities (kota) and regencies (kabupaten) within the same province. Parties must win at least 2.5 percent of the national vote in order to win DPR seats. Thirty-eight national parties contested the 2009 elections, and nine of those parties won seats in the DPR. Since 2004 the military and police no longer have appointed seats in any legislative body. Active members of these security forces were still disenfranchised in 2009 but may be allowed to vote beginning in 2014. [Source: Library of Congress *]
The DPR is led by a speaker and four deputy speakers elected by and from the membership, and each has a policy portfolio. Work is organized through 11 permanent commissions (like U.S. congressional committees), each with specific functional areas of governmental affairs corresponding to one or more ministries, and a budget committee. The DPR also has other bodies that specialize in interparliamentary cooperation, the legislative agenda, ethics violations, and internal financial and administrative management. The DPR secretariat includes a small research unit designed to provide nonpartisan information to members. Individual members have only one or two staff members, who primarily handle administrative tasks. Commissions also have a limited number of staff, mainly for administration. Party blocs have a handful of professional staff supported by the DPR budget. The DPR’s budget remains inadequate to support a professional legislature, and employees of the secretariat are still technically civil servants in the Department of Home Affairs. *
The legislative process in Indonesia has an extraordinary provision in Article 20(2) of the amended 1945 constitution, which requires bills to achieve the “joint approval” of the DPR and the president in order to become law. The unique twist is that approval by the president takes place as part of the legislative committee deliberations, not when the bill is sent to the president for signature. Bills may be initiated by either the executive or the DPR; most still originate in the executive branch. The president must issue a separate “presidential mandate” for each bill to the relevant cabinet minister to represent the executive branch in legislative deliberations. Issuance of this mandate is normally not a problem when the government initiates a bill but can be when the DPR is the initiating branch. Withholding this mandate in essence gives the president a veto that cannot be overridden by the DPR, which cannot deliberate on a bill without executive-branch participation. *
The DPR also has an important role in various nonlegislative matters under the amended constitution. The DPR begins the impeachment process by approving an indictment that is sent to the Constitutional Court for trial. The DPR must approve declarations of war and peace, treaties, and other international agreements initiated by the president. It also must approve the president’s appointment and dismissal of the commander in chief of the armed forces, the national police chief, and members of the Judicial Commission. The DPR selects members of the Finance Audit Board (BPK) and three of the nine members of the Constitutional Court; it also approves the Judicial Commission’s nominations for Supreme Court justices. Finally, the president must consider the DPR’s views regarding Indonesia’s ambassadors to other countries, foreign ambassadors in Indonesia, and the granting of amnesties and pardons. In one of the few remaining vestiges of the parliamentary characteristics of the political system under the original 1945 constitution, the DPR has the right of interpellation, the power to summon the president before the legislature to answer questions. In practice, however, the DPR has found this power difficult to enforce. *
Indonesian Legislative Deliberations
Legislative deliberations generally follow a four-step process. The first two of the four steps are a reading of the bill in a plenary session by a representative of the initiating branch, followed by a formal response from the other branch. In the third step, the bill is referred for further discussion and amendment to one of the permanent commissions, or often instead to a working committee (panitia kerja or panja) or special committee (panitia khusus or pansus) formed on an ad hoc basis for the purpose of addressing that bill. This step is the locus of the achievement of joint approval, and the executive branch participates directly in these committee deliberations in the person of the relevant minister or department officials. This step is also the second source of the president’s untrammeled veto power; if the president withholds approval of the bill, it cannot move forward. In the fourth step, when a bill has achieved joint approval in committee, it goes back to the plenary session for a final vote. [Source: Library of Congress *]
The approved bill then goes to the president for signature; Article 20(5) of the constitution ensures that this is a formality, for any bill not signed by the president within 30 days of its approval by the DPR automatically becomes law. (The president cannot exercise a veto at this point, as there is not a third option of rejecting the bill and sending it back to the DPR.) Occasionally, circumstances compel the president to issue emergency regulations rather than wait for this lengthy legislative process to run its course. In this case, during the legislative session immediately following the issuance of such regulations, the DPR must approve them; lacking such approval, they must be revoked. *
DPR deliberations are designed to produce consensus. It is the political preference of the leadership to avoid overt expressions of opposition or less than complete support. This practice is justified by a cultural predisposition to avoid, if possible, votes in which majority– minority opposing positions are recorded. If votes are necessary, however, a quorum requires a two-thirds majority. On issues of nomination and appointment, voting is by secret ballot; on all other matters, it is by a show of hands. *
Regional Representative Council
The DPR’s less-powerful partner in the legislative process is a body established in October 2004 to represent regional interests at the national level: the Regional Representative Council (DPD; sometimes referred to colloquially as the Senate). This 132-member body meets on the same calendar as the DPR, which is required by the constitution to hold sessions at least once every year. Four members from each province are elected directly by voters for the same five- year term as the DPR. To be eligible for nomination for the 2004 election, candidates could not be affiliated with political parties, must have collected 1,000 to 5,000 signatures from verified registered voters (depending on the size of the province), and must have resided in the province for five years. The DPR tried to strip the nonpartisan and residency requirements for the 2009 elections. However, the DPD petitioned the Constitutional Court to overturn this decision as inconsistent with the constitutional intent for the DPD; the court sided with the DPD and restored the provincial-residency requirement but ruled that it was constitutional to allow for partisan DPD candidates. Candidates’ photographs appear on the ballot paper, and voters are eligible to vote for one candidate; the four candidates with the highest vote totals win. [Library of Congress *]
The DPD is led by a speaker and two deputy speakers; one of each of the three leaders represents western, central, and eastern Indonesia. The DPD has divided itself into four committees, each of which deals with a set of policy areas. Its role in the legislative process is more indirect than and subordinate to the DPR’s. The DPD can propose bills to the DPR in the areas of regional autonomy; center–region relations; the formation, division, and merger of regions; the management of natural resources and other economic resources; and the financial balance between the center and the regions. The constitution also specifies that the DPD may participate in the deliberations regarding bills in these areas, but it does not indicate how this should happen, leaving that up to the two bodies to negotiate. The DPD must also provide its opinion to the DPR on the state budget and on bills regarding taxation, education, and religion. Finally, the DPD has oversight authority related to all of these policy areas; however, it cannot take action on the results of its inquiries, which go to the DPR for further action. *
One of the first acts of the DPD after its establishment was to begin work on a constitutional amendment to increase its powers. Passage of any amendments requires the support of a substantial portion of the DPR, and it is not likely that the DPR would support an amendment that would require it to share legislative power. In the 2004 term, the proposal failed to garner sufficient support, but a commission has been established to study the issue, and it was likely the DPD would try again in the 2009 term. *
People’s Consultative Assembly
No longer the highest constitutional body, the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) nonetheless retains important roles in the political process. The MPR inaugurates the president and vice president, has the final say in the impeachment process, and remains the only body permitted to amend the constitution. The “Broad Outlines of State Policy,” a document that theoretically established policy guidelines for the next five years and was subject to MPR approval during the Suharto years, has been abolished because competing presidential candidates are expected to present their policy platforms to the public during the campaign. The MPR now consists solely of the members of the DPR and DPD, having dropped the vague “functional group delegates” as part of the constitutional reform process. The MPR is led by a speaker (who also must be a DPR member) and four deputy speakers, two each from the DPR and the DPD. [Source: Library of Congress]
Under Suharto, the MPR was a legislative body with as many 1,000 member. It met every five years to determine the direction of Indonesian policy and rubber Suharto’s election of himself as president. After Suharto was ousted, it was used to select the president and vice president and was made up of members of the DPR, plus 200 appointed and local legislative delegates. Now the president and vice president are selected in direct elections
"All the seats, both elected and appointed, are subject to lobbying, coalition-building and illegal vote-buying. Parliamentary delegates ate not required to support the parties they represent."
Indonesia’s Legislature Gets Little Done
The legislature has become a more vibrant, vocal branch of government with increasing pluralism and freedom and the expansion of the DPR’s constitutional authority. Nonetheless, most legislation still originates in the executive branch. The DPR continues to lack sufficient professional research staff—whether attached to individual members, party blocs, commissions, or the legislature as a whole— and its constituency-outreach efforts remain limited as well. The legislative process itself remains slow, and the DPR suffers from a backlog of proposed bills waiting to enter the process. However, approximately 65 percent of the members elected in 2009 were new to the DPR, and even among those reelected there is a group interested in reforming the institution, revising the standing orders to streamline the legislative process, and expanding the DPR budget to give it the resources to begin to study policy issues and draft legislation on its own. *
While President Yudhoyono was still power, Anita Rachman of the Wall Street Journal wrote: “Indonesia’s current House comprises a governing coalition led by the Democratic Party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. But the six parties within the coalition all have different ideas and interests, and they’ve had a hard time working together, say observers. Several bills debated in the House have taken years to finish, according to the Indonesian Center for Law and Policy Studies, or PSHK, a non-governmental organization. For example, the Mass Organization Law that governs public organizations in the country, finally passed in 2013 after two years of discussion that included a six-month debate over the law’s title and definition, said Ronald Rofiandri monitoring and advocacy director at PSHK. [Source: Anita Rachman, Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2014 <+>]
“Another problem, says Mr. Ambardi, is that the current governing coalition wasn’t formed based on ideas, but political benefits. He was referring to how when parties began jockeying for positions in government following elections in 2008, many of them offered their support in return for having a party member placed in the president’s cabinet.
More Parties Mean a Slower Indonesian Legislature
After the 2014 legislative elections, Anita Rachman of the Wall Street Journal wrote: “Early returns from the April 9 legislative elections suggest that the number of parties in the House will go from nine to ten, meaning the already “fat” House will become fatter, and the lobbying process tougher, a House member says. “It is going to be more difficult, to pass laws, budgeting, or carry out other functions,” said Nudirman Munir, a lawmaker from the Golkar Party, which is currently part of the governing coalition. The bargaining required to pass laws will just make the House “unproductive,” he said. [Source: Anita Rachman, Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2014 <+>]
“More parties essentially means more debates, more infighting and more legislative gridlock in a House with an already poor record for getting things done. Based on data from the Indonesian Center for Law and Policy Studies, an independent research institution that pushes for legal reform in Indonesia, the House only passed 22 laws out of a target of 75 in 2013. The bigger the House is, the more complicated the legislating process will be, said Dodi Ambardi, a political analyst from Indikator, a polling agency and political consultancy. <+>
“A revision to the elections law was meant to slim down Indonesia’s legislature by raising the percentage of votes each party must garner to take a seat in the House. This year it is 3.5 percent of the popular vote, up from 2.5 percent in 2009. But Siti Zuhro, a political researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, a government science and research agency, says the threshold “failed” to result in any trimming. <+>
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated June 2015