Elections are held every five years. The last one was in 2014. The next one is in 2019. The voting age is 17. However, married persons regardless of age can vote. Around 185 million of Indonesia’s 250 million people are eligible voters. Voting is weighed in favor of the less populous peripheral islands.

Elections is Indonesia have been described as the biggest and most complex in the world—a claim India might take issue with. In Indonesia’s 2009 election, 4 million station officials at 550,000 polling stations across a country of 17,000 islands managed 775 million ballot papers in 2,450 different designs to get 19,700 candidates elected for one presidency and 532 legislatures at national and sub-national level. In the general election in April 2004, 87 percent of Indonesia’s 147 million voters voted at 600,000 polling stations. In 1999, the voting was carried out at 250,000 polling station manned by 500,000 election monitors.

Indonesia has had four rounds of national elections since returning to democracy: 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. The quality of the 1999 and 2004 election operation progressed well, but a major procurement scandal, subsequent dysfunctional legislation, and a challenged election commission resulted in sub-standard 2009 elections — saved primarily by a convincing and significant victory margin. For the 2014 elections, 2,659 commissioners at national and sub-national level were appointed. herculean.[Source: rumahpemilu.org, Indonesia’s Election Portal ***]

The last elections for legislatures at national and sub-national level were held in April 2014. Presidential elections were held in July 2014, While Presidential and legislative elections happen every five years, local elections for powerful executives on sub-national level happens in a staggered manner throughout Indonesia all the time. There is always an imminent local election somewhere in Indonesia.

In terms of the size of the electorate, the national election in Indonesia is the second largest one-day election in the world — just behind the U.S. The fixed voter list for the 2014 election established on 4 November 2013 recorded 186.61 million registered voters. For the 2009 legislative elections, there were 171 million registered voters and 122 million votes cast — a 71 percent turn-out rate — which is a drastic decline from the 93 percent turn-out for legislative elections in 1999 and 84 percent in 2004; however, a decline is not unusual for newly established democracies.

See 1999 and 2004 Elections, History

See Suharto, History

Indonesian Election Details

Elections are usually held on Monday. The polling stations open around 7:00an and close at 10:00pm. Elections are set and overseen by an the National Election Commission known by the Indonesian acronym KPU. Voters stick a pin through a piece of paper with the symbol of each party on it and have their fingers marked with indelible ink to prevent them from voting more than once. Sometimes it can take weeks to get the ink off. . In the 2004 election, millions of ballots were initially declared invalid because voters punched two holes rather than one. The problem was caused because voters failed to completely unfold the rectangular ballot and punched a hole through two pieces of paper. The election commission decided that the ballots would be declared valid as long as the second hole was in a blank area of the ballot.

Voting has been delayed in remote rural areas because of the slowness in getting ballots to remote stations, especially in Irian Jaya, where ballots are sometimes carried by porters on dirt paths. In 2004 so many polling station didn’t have ballots on the ve of the election, a justice minister threatened to arrest election officials and air force helicopters and Navy frigates were called in to deliver ballots to remote islands and mountain villages.

The official tallies for elections are not announced until two weeks after the election is held. Preliminary results are announced after counting a half million or so votes at 2,500 selected polling stations.

Legal Framework of Indonesian Elections

Indonesia is a representative republic whereby the President is both the head of state and of government. The 1945 Constitution of Indonesia (Undang-Undang Dasar Negara Republik Indonesia Tahun 1945 [UUD 1945]) is the foundation for the country’s system of government and provides for a limited separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers. [Source: rumahpemilu.org, Indonesia’s Election Portal ***]

The fall of in 1998 and the beginning of the Reformasi movement resulted in significant amendments to the Constitution, which impacted all three branches of government, added important human rights provisions and for the first time inserted the concept of ‘election’ into the constitution. ***

The legislative framework governing democratic representation is complex and involves six laws: 1) Law 15/2011 governing election management bodies; 2) Law 8/2012 governing legislative elections; 3) Law 42/2008 governing presidential elections; 4) Law 32/2004 governing regional administration (which includes local elections); 5) Law 2/2011 governing political parties; 6) Law 27/2009 governing the structure of national and sub-national legislatures. ***

Indonesian Legislative Elections

In April 2014 elections took place for the national level legislatures and for sub-national legislatures in 33 provinces and 497 regencies and municipalities. At the national level there are two elected national legislative assemblies in Indonesia: the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat/DPR) and the Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah/DPD). While the DPR is an existing body established by the 1945 Constitution, the DPD was formed in 2001 through an amendment to the Constitution in a move towards bicameralism. However, only the DPR fully legislates while the DPD has a more limited mandate. Together both chambers are referred to as the People’s Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat/MPR). Representatives of both the DPR and DPD are elected for a five-year term. [Source: rumahpemilu.org, Indonesia’s Election Portal ***]

The national DPR has a total of 560 representatives from 77 multi-member electoral districts, with three to ten seats in each electoral district (depending on district population), elected from political party lists through an open-list proportional representation (PR) system. A “parliamentary threshold” of 3.5 percent applies only to the national level DPR, not to sub-national legislatures. Each voter receives one DPR ballot listing all political parties and candidates running in their electoral district. The voter then punches one or two holes to mark one candidate or one political party or both (if punching two holes the political party chosen must be the party of the candidate or the ballot is invalid). ***

The DPD has 132 representatives, four from each of 33 provinces. Independent candidates from the respective provinces are elected through a single-non-transferable-vote system. Each voter receives one DPD ballot listing all independent candidates running in their province. The voter punches only one hole to mark the candidate of his/her choice. The four candidates with the four highest vote totals in each province are elected. ***

DPRD Province (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah Provinsi) are elected in 33 provinces, each with between 35 and 100 members, depending on the population of the province. For 2014 legislative election, at the provincial level, there are 2,112 seats contested in 259 multi-member constituencies with 3 to 12 seats each (depending on population). 497 DPRD Regency/Municipality (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah Kabupaten/Kota) are elected, each with between 20 to 50 members, depending on population. Underneath the provincial level of local government there are 410 regencies or kabupaten (generally rural) and 98 municipalities or kota (generally urban) of which 497 will elect DPRD Regency/Municipality. For the 2014 legislative election, at the regency/municipality level, there are 16,895 seats in 2,102 multi-member constituencies with 3 to 12 seats. ***

The representatives at national, provincial, and the regency/municipality levels are elected for five-year terms on the same day, through the same PR open-list system as described for DPR at the national level albeit without a threshold. In practice, this means the each voter in Indonesia will receive four different ballots on 9 April 2014, one each for DPR, DPD, DPRD Province and DPRD Regency/Municipality. ***

Seat Allocations and Gender Quota in Indonesia’s Legislative Elections

DPR Seat Allocation: In 2009 the seat allocation for DPR, DPRD Province and DPRD Regency/Municipality was a complicated process that led to misallocation of seats and embarrassing corrections. In the current legislative election law (8/2012), the seat allocation process has been simplified into two stages. To allocate seats, General Election Commission (KPU) will first determine the ‘quota’ (Bilangan Pembagi Pemilih/BPP) for each electoral district (Daerah Pemilihan/Dapil). BPP is the total number of valid votes cast in the electoral district divided by the total number of seats of the electoral district. A political party receives one seat for each time their total number of votes received meets the BPP. For example, if the BPP is 1500 and Party A received 5000 votes, they will win three seats in this first stage of calculation. In the second stage of calculation any remaining seats of the electoral district are allocated to those political parties with the largest vote remainders (the vote remainder equals the party’s total votes minus all votes used to secure seats in the first stage allocation). For example: the BPP is 1500 in an electoral district with five seats being competed by two political parties; Party A received 5000 votes and therefore won three seats in stage one, Party B received 2500 votes and won one seat in stage one; Party A has 500 remaining votes and Party B has 1000 remaining votes; hence Party B receives the remaining fifth seat in this second stage. Should political parties end up with the same vote remainder for one remaining seat, the seat is given to the political party with the wider geographical distribution of votes. Once the number of seats for each political party is determined, the seats are filled by candidates who ran for the party in the electoral district and received the highest number of votes. For the national level DPR and its 77 electoral districts, political parties that receive less than 3.5 percent of the valid votes cast for the national DPR vote are excluded from the seat allocation process. Such parties can still win seats in DPRD Province and DPRD Regency/Municipality. [Source: rumahpemilu.org, Indonesia’s Election Portal ***]

Gender Quota: During elections in 2004, the election law suggested that political parties include 30 percent of women candidates in their lists. 14 out of the 24 contesting political parties met the suggested quota resulting in DPR being seated with 11.6 percent of women and DPD with 22 percent. In the 2009 legislative election, the gender quota regulation was slightly stricter. Each running political party was required to submit a minimum of 30 percent women candidates in the proposed candidate list, with at least one woman within every three candidates listed from the top of the list (so called ‘zipper’ system). The 30 percent requirement had non-binding administrative sanctions for non-compliance, while the zipper system non-compliance had no sanctions attached. In 2009 election, 101 women were elected to DPR, or 17.86 percent, (currently there are 103 female DPR representatives due to interim replacement of legislators). For the 2014 election, Law 8/2012 maintains 30 percent quota in the candidate lists and requires that at least one candidate in every three is a woman. Both requirements now carry a binding sanction – i.e. political parties that do not meet the quota will be disqualified from running in the electoral district where the quota is not met. During the candidacy registration process at the KPU, all 12 national contesting parties met the requirement. The temporary candidate list has 2,434 women and total of 6,576 candidates – slightly over 37 percent. One woman being listed within every three candidates on the ballot does not provide any guarantee on gender representation as the seats won by a political party will be allocated to their candidates who receive the highest number of votes, regardless of gender. If Party A wins three seats and their three candidates with the most votes are male, the political party will have no female representative in that electoral district. ***

Indonesian Presidential Elections

The President is the head of the executive branch and can be elected for a maximum of two five-year terms. A political party or coalition of political parties that wins 25 percent of the vote or wins at least 20 percent of the seats in the DPR can nominate candidates for President and Vice President (running as a pair). Presidential election is therefore held shortly after legislative elections in order to establish which political parties or coalitions are eligible to nominate a presidential candidate. [Source: rumahpemilu.org, Indonesia’s Election Portal ***]

The president and vice president are elected for five-year terms by direct vote. The 1945 constitution was amended in 1999–2002 to make the once powerful, party-centered presidency subject to popular election and limited to two five-year terms. The president and vice president are elected on single ticket, usually representing a coalition of parties. Winning tickets must gain more than 60 percent of popular vote in the first round of voting and at least 20 percent of vote in half of provinces. If percentages not met, second-round runoff election held. The Cabinet is appointed by the president. [Source: Library of Congress *]

In the 2004, Indonesians for the first time chose their president through direct elections. Several candidates are allowed to run. The elections were made possible by parliament legislation passed in July 2003. Before that the president and vice president were chosen by a vote of 50 percent plus one within Parliament several months after the Parliamentary elections. The vice presidency has traditionally been a largely ceremonial position with no real power. In the 2004 election, the president and the vice president were chosen together on a ticket as is the case un the United States. Before that the vice president was chosen by president and approved by the parliament. According to the constitution the vice president becomes president if the president dies in office.

The last presidential election in July 2014.

Local Elections – Pemilukada

Indonesia’s local government structure is divided into 34 Provinces, with 508 regencies/municipalities (Kabupaten in rural areas and kota in cities), with 6,994 districts (kecamatan), and under this 81,253 villages (kelurahan in cities and desa in rural areas). Formal local elections organized by the election commission are called Regional Head Elections (Pemilihan Umum Kepala Daerah dan Wakil Kepala Daerah/Pemilukada). They are staggered elections for executive heads and vice heads of the 33 provinces (excluding Yogyakarta, see later) and 502 regencies/municipalities. These elections happen throughout the year. There is always an imminent local election somewhere in Indonesia. [Source: rumahpemilu.org, Indonesia’s Election Portal ***]

Five provinces have special status that allows various differences to the general electoral law: Aceh for the local use of sharia law and local political parties; Yogyakarta as a sultanate; Papua and West Papua with special autonomy; and Jakarta as a special capital region. In 2012 the government enacted a special autonomy law for Yogyakarta that regulates that the Sultan of Yogyakarta is appointed as the governor of the province. Province elections: The chief executive of a province is a Governor, joined by a Vice Governor. They are elected as a pair for a five-year term with a plurality of at least 30 percent of the vote (50 percent in Jakarta). If such a plurality is not achieved, a second round between the top two candidate pairs will take place. ***

Regency/municipality elections: The chief executives at the regency and municipality level are the Regent (Bupati in rural areas) and Mayor (Walikota in cities), respectively. They are elected as a pair for a five-year term with a plurality of at least 30 percent of the vote. These regency/municipality elections sometime happen on the same day as the province level but are often on different days. Kecamatan appointments: The 508 regencies/municipalities are administratively sub-divided into a total of 6,994 districts (kecamatan). The head of the district (camat) is appointed by the Mayor/Regent at regency/municipality level). ***

Village appointments and elections: An administrative village refers to divisions within the districts, and is the lowest level of government administration in Indonesia. Across the country, there are 8,309 kelurahan (defined as an administrative village under a city) and 72,944desa (defined as an administrative village under a rural regency). The head (lurah) of a Kelurahan is a civil servant appointed by the district head. In contrast, the head (kepala desa) of a desa is a civilian that is directly elected by villagers in more informal and locally organized elections. These elections also take place in a staggered manner throughout the years, but in this case for a six-year term. ***

Political Parties and Candidates in Indonesian Elections

Indonesia has a multi-party system. According to the Human Rights Ministry’s records, there are 73 political parties formally registered as institutions. However, Law 8/2012 requires that each political party additionally undergoes a registration and verification process with the national election commission to run in a given election. In 2009, there were 38 national political parties and additional six Aceh political parties that competed in Aceh only. Nine political parties won seats in DPR at the national level. [Source: rumahpemilu.org, Indonesia’s Election Portal ***]

After the 2009 election the nine political parties amended the electoral laws and set a much higher bar for registering, competing and winning in the election. Barriers, which are high by international standard, include that a political party must have chapters in all 33 provinces (permanent office required), in at least 75 percent of the regencies/municipalities in each Province (permanent office required), and in at least 50 percent of the districts within each regency/municipality (permanent office not required). For the 2014 election 46 political parties pursued registration, but only twelve national political parties and three local political parties (allowed to contest in Aceh only, against national parties) succeeded and will now be on the ballots. They are listed below based on their contesting number with parenthetical information about votes gained in 2009 elections, where applicable. ***

1) NasDem — National Democrat Party (new political party); 2) PKB — National Awakening Party (4) 95 percent votes/27 DPR seats in 2009); 3) PKS — Justice and Prosperity Party (7) 89 percent votes/57 DPR seats in 2009); 4) PDI-P — Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (14) 01 percent votes/95 DPR seats in 2009); 5) Golkar — Functional Group Party (14) 45 votes/107 DPR seats in 2009); 6) Gerindra — Great Indonesia Movement Party (4) 46 percent votes/26 DPR seats in 2009); 7) PD — Democratic Party (20) 81 percent votes/150 DPR seats in 2009, party of the current president); 8) PAN — National Mandate Party (6) 03 percent/43 DPR seats in 2009) ; 9) PPP — United Development Party (5) 33 percent votes/33 DPR seats in 2009); 10) Hanura — People’s Conscience Party (3) 77 percent votes/18 DPR seats in 2009); 11) PDA — Aceh Peace Party (new political party, running in Aceh only); 12) PNA — Aceh National Party (new political party, running in Aceh only); 13) PA- Aceh Party (running in Aceh only; 43) 9 percent votes/33 DPR Aceh Province seats in 2009); 14) PBB — The Crescent and Star Party (no DPR seats in 2009); 15) PKPI — Indonesia Justice and United Party (no DPR seats in 2009). ***

Many political parties representing all parts of the Indonesian sociocultural spectrum contest national and local elections. Smaller parties disappear, and larger parties split and recombine, no longer because of government interference, but rather, simply, because of the harsh sinkor-swim logic of the free political marketplace: election results and the internal dynamics of these parties. In other words, although Indonesian democracy is not yet fully consolidated and faces many challenges, it is well on its way to becoming “the only game in town.”

Indonesian Election History

Indonesia has now held four sets of democratic national elections, in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014, following decades of stage-managed elections under the New Order. The 1999 elections were the first democratic national elections since 1955. Local direct elections for governor, mayor, and bupati have been held on a rolling basis in all parts of the country since 2005. The political maturity of Indonesian voters, combined with extensive monitoring by civil-society groups, helped make all of these elections largely free of violence and fraud, despite great concerns beforehand to the contrary. [Source: Library of Congress]

The founders of the Republic of Indonesia do not include the word "election" in the original manuscript of the 1945 Constitution. But that does not mean they do not want elections in the state organization. BPKNIP which functioned as a parliament was also set the electoral law as the main agenda. But the atmosphere revolution and frequent turnover of cabinet making new elections happen 10 years after independence. This is the first election that has filled of value: diversity, honesty, simplicity, and peace. The 1955 General Election was the first election as well as the best, which continues to be an example implementation of the next elections. [Source: rumahpemilu.org, Indonesia’s Election Portal ***]

As the antithesis of the Old Order, at first New Order regime initially offers a democratic space. Ahead of the 1971 General Election, they want to change the majoritarian electoral system they want and maintain proportional system that demanded by the political parties, in exchange free seats are given to for military in parliament. A moment later political life muted. New Order reduced only two political parties, the Development Unity Party (PPP) and Indonesia Democratic Party (PDI), plus Golkar and banned the party operation until the village, and forced civil servants to choose Golkar. The next election is only aimed at winning the Golkar, because the apparent legitimacy of the New Order regime was based in this yellow group.

See History

1999 General Election: Enthusiasm in Welcoming Democracy

The fall of New Order made people enthusiastic about entering the world of democracy. The 1999 General Election took place about one year after Suharto’s ouster and was relatively safe and orderly. Fear of violence were largel unfounded. Suharto’s Functional Group Party (Golkar) struggled and the Indonesia Democratic Party in Struggle (PDI-P) won. President Habibie steeped in to declare the elections valid after the National Elections Commission was not willing to certify the election results. [Source: rumahpemilu.org, Indonesia’s Election Portal ***]

To be eligible to participate in 1999, parties had to be national in scope, with party branches established in at least one-third of the provinces and one-half of the administrative districts within those provinces. A reconstituted General Elections Commission (KPU) administered the elections. It consisted of 48 representatives of the parties and five “government” representatives. (To avoid perceptions of continuity with the authoritarian management of elections under the New Order, the Habibie government chose to fill these positions with members of civil society and academia.) Although this structure functioned well to signal a clean break with the past and a level playing field for all parties, it broke down both in the run-up to the elections (when many of the party representatives were off campaigning) and following the elections (when most of the 48 parties won few votes or seats and began making unfounded allegations of fraud and boycotting KPU meetings). [Source: Library of Congress *]

Since 2002 the KPU has consisted of nine nonpartisan commissioners selected by the DPR from a longer list of candidates nominated by the president from civil society and academia. The 1999 elections continued the New Order practice of a closed-list proportional-representation system with the provinces as the electoral districts for the DPR; thus, the districts ranged in size from four seats (in former Timor Timur Province, now independent Timor-Leste) to 82 seats (Jawa Barat). These were simultaneous elections for the national DPR and the provincial and local DPRDs; each voter used a nail to punch a hole in one of the 48 party symbols on each of the three ballots. These legislative elections were followed by the presidential selection process within the MPR in October. Governors, mayors, and bupatis were selected by their respective DPRD. *

Changes for the 2004 and 2009 Election in Indonesia

The 2004 and 2009 elections were more complicated than those in 1999. There were three electoral processes: legislative elections in early April, the first round of the presidential election in early July, and the second round in September (necessary in 2004 but not in 2009). The vote for the legislative entities consisted of four separate and simultaneous elections, not just three as in 1999 and throughout the New Order. In addition to the DPR and the provincial and district DPRDs, voters now also elected representatives to the new upper house of the national legislature, the Regional Representative Council (DPD). [Source: Library of Congress *]

Two reforms addressed the complaint that representatives in the DPR and DPRDs had been too detached from their constituents. First, electoral districts were limited to between three and 10 seats (for 2009; in 2004 the upper limit was 12 seats). In the 19 least populated provinces, this rule meant that the province remained the electoral district. The other 14 provinces were divided along municipality and regency boundaries into between two and 11 electoral districts in order to fall into the mandated seat range. (All of these electoral districts consisted of more than one administrative district; in no case was an electoral district made up of a single administrative district.) The average DPR district across the 77 electoral districts nationwide had approximately seven representatives. Second, voters could choose a candidate from anywhere on the party’s list rather than just voting for a party. This open-list proportional-representation system is designed to make representatives more beholden to voters than to party leaders for their seats, and, in fact, nearly 20 percent of DPR members in 2009 (104 of 560) were chosen by voters from lower positions on the candidate lists. This method does make election logistics incredibly compli cated; ballots look like newspapers, and each electoral district has to have a separate ballot listing its candidates. *

A further complication for voters was that the election system for the DPD was entirely different from that for the DPR and DPRDs. DPD candidates, who represented entire provinces, campaigned more as individuals, even if they were affiliated with a political party. (DPD candidates had to have been residing in the province they represented and obtain thousands of signatures of registered voters in order to be nominated. For the 2004 elections, candidates were not allowed to have a political-party affiliation, but for the 2009 elections, candidates could be—but did not have to be—partisan.) Candidates’ names and photographs appeared on the ballot. Each voter marked one candidate, and the four candidates with the most votes were elected. *

The DPR elections served as a sort of primary for the presidential election. Parties or coalitions thereof with at least 20 percent of DPR seats, or 25 percent of the national DPR vote, were eligible to nominate presidential and vice-presidential tickets (this threshold was only 3 percent of DPR seats in 2004). *

Results of the 2004 and 2009 Election in Indonesia

In 2004 five tickets were nominated: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Muhammad Yusuf Kalla (winning33.6 percent of the vote in the first round) by the PD, Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI), and Star and Moon Party (PBB); Megawati Sukarnoputri and Hasyim Muzadi (26.2 percent) by the PDI–P; Wiranto and Salahuddin Wahid (22.2 percent) by Golkar; Amien Rais and Siswono Yudohusodo (14.9 percent) by the PAN, PKS, and several smaller parties; and Hamzah Haz and Agum Gumelar (3.1 percent) by the PPP. The PKB did not nominate a ticket because its presidential candidate, former President Wahid, was declared physically unfit for the position (a new criterion instituted in reaction to his administration). Because no ticket won more than 50 percent in the first round, a second round occurred in which Yudhoyono and Kalla soundly defeated Megawati and Hasyim, 60.9 percent to 39.1 percent, respectively.

Third Amendment of the 1945 Constitution by the MPR 2002 requires the direct election of president and vice president, and the selection of members of Parliament from each province. Presidential election in Indonesia makes the election more bigger in volume, while the election for members of the People’s Representative Council (DPD) in every province in conjunction with the election of members of the House of Representative (DPR), the Provincial House of Representative (DPRD Provinsi) and Municipality House of Representative (DPRD Kabupaten/Kota), making the 2004 General Election to be extremely complex. The 2004 General Election come off successfully, but ended tragically: several members of the National Elections Commission sent to jail for corruption.

Three tickets were nominated in 2009: Yudhoyono and Budiono by the PD, PKS, PAN, PPP, and PKB (winning 60.8 percent of the vote in the first round); Megawati and Prabowo Subianto by the PDI–P and Gerindra (26.8 percent); and Kalla and Wiranto by Golkar and Hanura (12.4 percent). Because Yudhoyono and Budiono won more than 50 percent in the first round, a second round was not necessary. *

Political Campaigns in Indonesia

The official campaign period runs about three or four weeks before the election. Campaigning is often severely restricted—often to only Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays—in part to prevent violence.” Critics complain about the system because in recent years there has been little violence and the system favors incumbents and large parties.

Campaigns are boisterous affairs that feature festive street rallies, parades, students revving up motorcycle engines, drum-beating dancers and masses of men, women and children, floats and singing contests—not serious discussion of issues. Candidates are often much more interested in drawing huge crowds rather than getting a specific message across so a premium is put on entertainment.

People who show up the rallies often dress in colors of the political party they support. In 1999, Megawati competed as head of the Indonesian Democratic Struggle Party. The symbol of the party, the water buffalo, appeared on T-shirts and giant paper mache models that were paraded through the streets. Golkar gave out gifts like roses, cookies, gasoline and phone cards. The Islamic parties gave out green T-shirts and $2 in cash, the going rate for rally appearances for all parties. Megawati’s party reportedly gave out the best gifts and largest cash payments. Golkar rallies have featured drawings for televisions, stereo systems and motorcycles.

The huge rallies of motorcycles, automobiles, and trucks cruising around cities, hallmarks of previous Indonesian campaigning, were banned beginning in 2004. Mass rallies in stadiums and other venues were still one of the most popular campaign techniques, although the open-list system for the DPR and the DPD elections did prompt more frequent door-to-door campaigning than had been the case previously. Television proved to be a significant campaign medium in the presidential election, and Yudhoyono used it particularly effectively in 2004 to overtake other, better-known candidates. Other candidates were busy lining up endorsements from political parties and political elites, but Yudhoyono tried to get coverage of his campaign rallies on the news every evening. In this way, he turned a nominating coalition that together had won only 11.4 percent of the vote in the legislative elections in April into convincing victories in both rounds of the presidential election. [Source: Library of Congress]

See 2004, 2009, 2014 Elections, History

Campaign Rally Brokers

Political parties sometimes hire campaign rally brokers to draw crowds to the rallies. Sometimes street toughs are paid $100 per rally to get people to show up. Often they get the same people to show up for rallies for opposing parties and politicians, each time wearing different colored T-shirts. Some the women paid by the Islamic parties forget to cover their heads.

One broker, who worked before as a small-time hoodlum, told the Washington Post, “Democracy isn’t bad for business.” He said that he figured that two thirds of the people that show up for rallies do so just to get their hands on the money and gifts. Political analysts estimate that 40 percent of campaign money is spent on paying people to show up at rallies.

The broker told the Washington Post, “Political parties usually look for the most influential people and ask them to gather people together. They consider me to be one of the influential people in his area. They know I dare to fight in the streets...I snap my fingers and people come. They’re mainly young and unemployed. They’re millions of unemployed in Indonesia, so it’s very easy for me.”

The rent-a-crowds are also used to stage protests against leaders and politicians and display support for certain issues. In some cases party’s become the object of protest. Once a mob trashed a Golkar office because they had not received the T-shirts, food and cash they were promised.

The broker said that he was paid by the number of people he got to show up. Some put the cost of a rally $2 per supporter for three hours; banners and chants are extra. If a really large crowd is demanded the broke said employed “multi-level marketing” and subcontracted work out to other brokers.

Campaign Financing and Irregularities in Indonesia

Political finance continues to be problematic in Indonesia. Both parties and candidates fund raise for executive and legislative elections. Election laws include limits on donations, although these regulations are poorly enforced, and spending is not limited. Most parties require legislative candidates to donate to party coffers in exchange for a place on the list; as a general rule, the higher the financial donation, the closer a candidate is placed to the top of the list. Even in an open-list system, placement near the top is advantageous. Similarly, most parties require local executive candidates to donate in exchange for nomination, a situation that creates incentives for elected candidates to engage in corruption in order to recoup these payments and begin amassing funds for future elections. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The process has been overseen, in all the national and local elections since 1999, by an official Election Oversight Committee (Panwaslu) system. However, the law has granted this system few real powers except to be a repository for complaints; any serious matters must still be handled by the police and the judicial system. The system is also underfunded, hampering its efficiency. More effective monitoring and observation of the elections since 1999 have been conducted by political parties, domestic civil-society groups, the media, and international organizations. The parties and domestic groups in particular have mobilized and trained hundreds of thousands of volunteers to monitor the process and report election results. *

Vote buying has traditionally not been as widespread in Indonesia as it has been in the Philippines and Thailand. Cash flows in different ways. Before the 2004 election, Megawati’s party paid to renovate mosques; handed out rice, instant noodles and fish in poor neighborhoods; offered free circumcisions for poor boys; and gave books to Islamic schools and fertilizer to farmers.

Golkar has reportedly told farmers they wouldn’t have to repay loans if they voted for Golkar. They also told recipients of food aid from the World Bank that it was a Golkar gift. On top of that, the party also gave voters Korans and prayer mats and a chance to win a free circumcision for their sons. Golkar also got headmasters at schools to tell his students that they would be flunked unless their parents voted for Golkar.

Election Rallies in Indonesia’s 2014 Election

As campaigning for the 2014 presidential election was drawing to a close, AFP reported: “Presidential hopeful Joko Widodo pledged to build a "new history" for Indonesia at a huge campaign rally, a last push to win votes in a tight election race. Tens of thousands of cheering supporters waved flags emblazoned with pictures of Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi, at Jakarta's main stadium on the final day of campaigning. Backers of his only rival, Prabowo Subianto, were holding rallies to show their support across the country, although the ex-general took time out to prepare for a TV debate in the evening. At the rally, Widodo — seen as a fresh face in a country still dominated by figures from the autocratic Suharto era — told the cheering crowd: "We are on the verge of building a new history." [Source: AFP, July 6, 2014 ^|^]

“The Jakarta governor added that his push for the presidency had been "hit by smear campaigns but we didn't fall apart because we truly believe in the Republic of Indonesia". He was referring to a flood of negative attacks on him that have eroded his popularity, including that he is not a Muslim, a damaging charge in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country. As well as the smear campaigns, Prabowo has extended his lead due to a slick, well-funded campaign, a contrast with Widodo's often disorganised effort. Before Widodo's speech, dozens of singers and bands performed for free to show their support.” After this “no more campaigning is allowed before the vote.

Before “the candidates and their running mates clashed in the last of five televised debates, which focused on food, energy and the environment. Widodo and his running mate, former vice-president Jusuf Kalla, appeared more energetic and commentators said they outclassed Prabowo and his deputy, Hatta Rajasa, with several well-judged attacks. In their closing statements, Widodo pledged to "bring change, breakthrough" to Indonesia, while Prabowo vowed to "prioritise welfare and sovereignty". "Jokowi and Kalla looked better," said Tobias Basuki, an analyst from Jakarta-based think-tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, adding the other pair "seemed to have lost their composure". ^|^

“As well as being seen as a break from the era of dictator Suharto, Widodo has also won plaudits for his common touch and being a clean leader in a graft-ridden country. Prabowo in contrast was a top military figure in the Suharto epoch who admitted ordering the abduction of democracy activists, but he has won over many voters by pledging to be a strong leader. Widodo is fighting to hold on to a poll lead of a few percentage points, down from a huge margin several months ago, and pollsters say the race is now too close to call.” Widodo ended up winning in an election was very close. ^|^

Drowning in Indonesia’s Alphabet Soup?

There are so many parties that many politicians and parties spent a great deal of time and effort informing potential voters of their symbols and numbers that appear on the ballot. On top of that candidates often us acronyms as short hand for political issues and groups. During the 2014 campaign, the Wall Street Journal reported: “When presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto asked for a little help explaining what TPID meant during a recently televised debate he got it – and then some. “Well, I’m not familiar with every acronym,” he said after rival Joko Widodo, who had posed the question, replied with an answer. Turns out, TPID stands for Tim Pemantauan dan Pengendalian Inflasi Daerah, a regional team overseeing inflation. [Source: Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2014 =]

“But Mr. Subianto’s acronym daze spurred those watching the debate to take to the Twitter-sphere and offer their own definitions of what the letters stand for. They include: 1) Ternyata Perasaan Ini Darimu = Apparently, you make me feel this way; 2) Tanpa Pacar Indah kok Dunia = Without a boyfriend/girlfriend the world is still beautiful; 3) Tunggu Pria Impian Datang = Wait for the man of your dreams to come; 4) Tolong Persoalan Ini Dilupakan = Please forget this issue; 5) Teman Prabowo Itu Djokowi = Jokowi is a friend of Prabowo; ) Takmuhrim Pelukan Itu Dosa = Hugging non-close relatives of the opposite sex is a sin; 6) Tunggu Perintah Ibu Dulu = Wait for mommy’s command. =

“The TPID was created in 2008 to manage inflation by monitoring changes in the price of goods. Its members consist of officials from the central bank, Bank Indonesia, which is charged with anchoring inflation through monetary policies. It also includes local governments and national ministries – particularly the coordinating ministry of the economy, which was led by Hatta Rajasa before he resigned to run as Mr. Subianto’s vice presidential candidate. =

Some analysts said the acronym stumble hurt Mr. Subianto, while others speculated that Mr. Widodo’s team chose it deliberately to reveal his rival’s lack of governing experience. “We are [vying to become the head of the government], so we must know the abbreviations,” Mr. Widodo said during a doorstop by reporters after Sunday’s debate. Others said the reference was a bit too obscure to have much impact. “TPID is not popular, I wouldn’t have known it if I were not an economist,” said Juniman, an economist with Bank International Indonesia. Indeed, the debate wrapped up with mixed reviews, with most analysts calling it a draw between the candidates.

In addition to asking about the TPID, Mr. Widodo also posed a question to Mr. Subianto about the DAU and DAK (Dana Alokasi Umum and Dana Alokasi Khusus), two general budget funds given from the central government to the local level. With just weeks left before the election, and three debates to go, the beloved acronyms and abbreviations are sure to get a full airing. Here are some others currently going around: 1) BBM = Oil-based fuels (Bahan Bakar Minyak); ) BKKBN = National family planning agency (Badan Koordinasi Keluarga Berencana Nasional); ) Capres = Presidential candidate (Calon Presiden); ) Cawapres = Vice presidential candidate (Calon Wakil Presiden); ) Caleg = Legislative candidate (Calon Legislatif); ) KPU = Indonesian Elections Commisison (Komisi Pemilihan Umum); ) Luber = Direct, public, free, confidential – referring to the nature of elections (Langsung, Umum, Bebas, Rahasia); ) MP3EI = Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (Masterplan Percepatan dan Perluasan Pembangunan Ekonomi Indonesia) *this one is a mouthful; ) Ormas = Mass organization (Organisasi Masyarakat); ) Parpol = Political parties (Partai Politik); ) Pemilu= General election (Pemilihan Umum); ) Pilpres = Presidential election (Pemilihan Presiden); ) Pileg = Legislative election (Pemilihan Legislatif); ) Pilkada = Regional head election (Pemilihan Kepala Daerah); ) Puskesmas = Community clinic (Pusat Kesehatan Masyarakat); ) Put them together and you can get: The Capres and Cawapres went to the KPU to register for the Pilpres accompanied by their Parpol.

Jakarta’s Key Election Issue: a Mustache

In 2012, Ben Bland wrote in the Financial Times, “When 7 million Jakartans vote for the governor of one of emerging Asia’s most important but worst-run run cities, the key issue will be a mustache. Opponents of the facial-hair-sporting incumbent, Fauzi Bowo, have adopted the unofficial slogan “no mustache,” which they say is Indonesian shorthand for “Stop being messy, dirty and poor.” The governor of Jakarta is one of the most important directly elected positions in Indonesia’s heavily decentralized system, with wide-ranging powers over transport, health and education and an annual budget of about $3.8 billion. Political parties and analysts also see the contest as a key battleground ahead of the presidential election in 2014. [Source: Ben Bland, Financial Times, July 9, 2012 /=]

“Bowo, a German-trained planning official who represents Yudhoyono’s Democrat party, is the clear frontrunner, according to political observers, because of his roots in Jakarta, his extensive and well-financed political network and his power base as a local bureaucrat. But even supporters such as Firdaus Ibon, a 35-year-old car salesman, concede that Bowo — or Foke as he is known — needs to do much more to deal with the city’s interminable traffic jams and habitual floods. But at an election rally that blends loud Indonesian pop music, Islamic prayers and dancers in “I love the moustache” T-shirts, he insists “only Foke can resolve our problems as he understands our city”. /=\

“Leading the pack of five rivals to Bowo is Joko Widodo, the reform-minded mayor of Solo, a medium-size city about 370 miles east of Jakarta, who has built a reputation for efficient, fair and clean government – rare in a country where 17 out of 33 provincial governors have been investigated for corruption. Supporters such as Tofani Moeniz, a 52-year-old office worker, say Jokowi, as he is known, has a good record – from the construction of one of Indonesia’s first modern tram systems to his smooth handling of the relocation of street vendors. He has been selected as one of 25 finalists in a contest to find the world’s best mayors. /=\

“Jokowi is experienced, smart and has integrity,” says Moeniz, shouting over a band playing Widodo’s favored rock music at a rally attended by thousands of people wearing the red-checked shirts that are his campaign trademark. “Jakarta needs that kind of leader rather than Fauzi Bowo who has launched a lot of projects that are going nowhere.” While Bowo’s team questions whether Widodo can recreate his regional success in the capital, the Solo mayor’s supporters contrast his plucky outsider status with the flashy complacency of Bowo, who was revealed to own a Harley-Davidson motorbike, a Hummer SUV and a Van Gogh painting during the pre-election vetting process. /=\

“The Jakarta election is something of a barometer for the national elections in 2014,” says Douglas Ramage, an expert on Indonesia politics and foreign investment consultant. “It tells us that conservative parties like PDI-P can go out of their comfort zone, selecting genuinely reform-minded candidates like Jokowi.”But Faisal Basri, an economist and one of two independent Jakarta gubernatorial candidates, urges caution about the potential for sweeping change. “Jakarta can be the entry point for building a better Indonesia,” he says. “But our country is controlled by a very limited number of people and we have to fight the oligarchy and political dynasties if we want to move forward.” /=\

Image Sources:

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.

Last updated June 2015

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