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Civis 004/2015

Consolidation of Democracy


One of the requirements in our democracy is the implementation of the Presidential Election and Public Election as ‘LUBER’ (abbreviation of ‘Langsung’, ‘Umum’, ‘Bebas’, ‘Rahasia’ which means: direct, public, free, confidential), ‘JURDIL’ (abbreviation of ‘Jujur’, ‘Adil’, which means: honest and fair), and periodic. The election is a mechanism for citizens to encourage the movement for a circulation in the national leadership, both national and regional level. So, the 1945 Constitution decrees that election is an instrument of the Constitution. The Constitution also stated that political parties are instrument of the constitution to be implemented in the election process.

In accordance with that principle, our democracy needs qualified political parties that are able to function accordingly, including listening to citizen’s aspiration, scouting leaders in the executive and legislative bodies and to strive for the inclusion of those inspirations in the governmental system.

Democracy in Indonesia cannot be built without the existence of political parties. No matter how disturbed we are in looking at their track-records in politics right now, it is impossible to build a country without political parties, and only with direct democracy or corporatic system, for example. But having too many political parties or only a single political party is not healthy for democracy and will form an authoritarian regime.

By applying a certain electoral threshold, the party system is simplified, so that the number of parties involved is not too many (4-5 political parties) and able to effectively support a constitutional democracy and an effective presidential system.

As an instrument of constitution, political parties who gained seats in the election needs to be funded by the State or Regional Expenditure Budget, aside from the membership dues, in order to fund their activities. Because of that, the finance of political parties should be watched by the state financial watchdog (BPK) and other law enforcers. In order to fullfill their function of recruiting future potential leaders, political parties must give political education for their cadres and only cadres with good potential and quality are eligible to be candidates in the election. Therefore the cadre education program can be funded by the state and its implementation can be done by NGOs, for example, and the accountability can be audited by the state.

The 1945 Constitution emphasizes that election candidates and those who are eligible to propose a candidate for President and Vice President are political parties participating in the election. Because of that, political parties have the authority to determine the chosen candidate. This mechanism will build the quality of political parties and the legislative candidates, and prevent capitalization of political parties and money politics in the candidacy.

Citizen’s responsibility in ensuring the circulation of leadership, giving support and paying close attention toward the workings of the state still needs to be repaired and enhanced. Citizen’s right to vote and be voted goes together with the responsibility to use their votes. Citizens who have voting rights should go and use their votes, and ignoring that responsibility should be sanctioned as a minor deviation of the law. However, the freedom and secrecy of their votes should be guaranteed, including their choice to not voting for anyone.

Aside from the things mentioned above, there are various other problems that need some attention.

Although the requirement to ensure the consistency of the whole laws to the Constitution is clearly written in the 1945 Constitution, however, in reality, we still experience many obstacles to implement it accordingly.

We are yet to have enough experience and skills to discuss and debate about the substance of the laws according to the boundaries of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution.  Pancasila is still treated as a symbol that is untouchable in reality. It is time to start socializing Pancasila, instead of only mentioning it. Pancasila doesn’t give ready-made solutions to apply in our problems. It needs some meetings and continous discourse in the society, to look for answers and solutions for problems according to the Pancasila paradigm. Pancasila needs to be operationalized, and given explicitly in the practical level of ideology and politics, economy, social, cultural, religion, education, and others.

Back then we knew the points in the Guidelines of Appreciation and Practice of Pancasila (known as P-4). Those points can be used in order to achieve agreement regarding state policy, including the contents of constitutional law. The problem with those points are that they have declined into recitations and aren’t used as practical guidelines to achieve common agreement. On the other hand, those points are deemed sacral and final. There are also ones who regard them as having a bias towards certain cultures. (to be continued)

1.The right to build a political party still has to be respected, but the requirements to be a participant of the election and to place a chosen candidate in the representative body need to be improved.


(This Paper was presented in the Church and Politics Strategic Forum held by Leimena Institute in Jakarta on February 9-12, 2015)

Drs. Jakob Tobing, MPA

Drs. Jakob Tobing, MPA

President, Leimena Institute

Jakob Tobing is one of the most prominent architects of the new democratic Indonesia. He played an instrumental role in Indonesia’s transition from the authoritarian rule to democracy in 1998. He was then entrusted as the Chairman of the 1999 National Election Committee and the 1999-2004 Parliamentary Commission on the Constitutional Amendment – the two important bodies that decisively replaced authoritarianism with democracy in Indonesia. Under his leadership, the constitutional amendment has guaranteed the principles of democracy, rule of law, and human rights, which is now seen as a model by many other countries. He was a student leader against the old order in 1966, appointed as member of parliament in 1968, and became the Vice Chairman of the ruling party during the Suharto’s regime. But during the height of the authoritarian regime, he joined the opposition and was invited to join and establish the reform PDIP party by its Chairman Megawati Soekarnoputri, who later became the President of Indonesia. President Habibie decorated him with Mahaputera Utama medal in 1999. After more than three decades as a member of parliament, in 2004 he was appointed as the Indonesian Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, a leadership role which again he performed so outstanding that the Republic of Korea awarded him the Gwanghwa medal—the country’s highest diplomatic award. He received his graduate degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA.