Learning from Indonesian election
THE last national legislative election in Indonesia was held on April 9, 2014. The Legislative has two assemblies: the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR) and the Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, DPD). The DPR is comprised of 560 representatives from 77 multi-member electoral districts. Each district has 3-10 seats (based on district population), elected from political party lists through an open-list proportional representation (PR) system in which voters vote for a party and may then choose to vote for one candidate on the same party's list. On the other hand, DPD is comprised of 132 representatives, four from each of the 33 provinces. Nonpartisan candidates from the provinces are elected through a single non-transferable vote system.
Before discussing the electoral system, it is important to know about the General Election Commission (KPU) of Indonesia. The KPU is an expert-based election commission, i.e. all the commissioners must have previous experience in elections. It is an independent body responsible for the conduct of national and regional elections as mandated by the Constitution and Law 15/2011. The KPU consists of seven commissioners (currently six men and one woman). These commissioners came through a rigid selection process and were then sworn-in by the president on April 12, 2012, for a five-year term.
The KPU Secretariat, led by the secretary-general, is the executive arm of the KPU. It is responsible for the administration of the organisation at the national level. The secretary-general is usually nominated by the KPU and then appointed for a five-year term by the president. The KPU has approximately 13,865 staff and 2,659 commissioners in 531 offices across Indonesia.
Political party registration is compulsory in Indonesia. As per law, parties have to be registered with Ministry of Human Rights first; but for taking part in elections each party has to undergo a registration and verification process by the KPU. The criteria among others are: the parties must have chapters in all 33 provinces, in at least 75% of the regencies/municipalities, and in at least 50% of the sub-districts within each regency/municipality. Moreover, if a party cannot ensure 30% women candidates, it is also not allowed to take part in elections. Out of the currently 73 formally registered political parties with Ministry of Human Rights, 46 parties pursued showed interest to KPU to take part in elections, but only 12 national political parties and three local political parties succeeded in taking part in elections.
In order to arrange this election, the KPU published an election calendar in early August 2012. The list of candidates was published on August 4, 2013 about eight months before the elections. Although the campaign period lasts for 21 days, the silent period always lasts for 3 days; no campaigning is allowed during these days.
Voting starts at 7 am and continues up to 1 pm. The counting must be finished in each of the polling stations before dark and sent to the district level. Each of the polling stations has only one booth containing 300-400 voters. In order to ensure a high degree of neutrality, the polling stations are set up in public parks, fields, even on the roads, instead of educational institutions. To ensure voter participation, the KPU sends a letter to all the voters, which have the name of the polling station, voter's serial number and location of the polling station. Moreover, a complete voter list is hung on walls close to the polling stations so that voters can verify the information.
Indonesian election is totally violence-free. JPPR (People's Voter Education Network), the biggest network of election observers, found only 2 minor incidents of violence in 2011 polling stations observed. The security of each of the polling stations is ensured by only two security personnel.
One of the big concerns in Indonesian elections is the use of money. According to JPPR's observation, cash money, food, health insurance card are given to voters in the silent period as well as on the election day.
The Indonesian election is probably the most complex electoral event globally. In the last elections there were 185,822,507 voters registered in the voter list. There were 4 million election officials in over 545,000 polling stations across a country of 17,000 islands, managing 775 million ballot papers in 2,450 different designs to get 19,699 candidates elected for 532 legislatures at national and sub-national level. The candidate list includes 2,465 women out of a total of 6,607 candidates -- slightly over 37%.
The writer is Director, Election Working Group.
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