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Indonesia - Government

Indonesia is a republic based on the 1945 constitution providing for a separation of executive, legislative, and judicial power. Indonesia conducts a type of governance that is a multy-party presidential republic that is democratic. As in other democratic countries, the Indonesian political system is based on the Trias Politica that recognizes the separation of the legislative, executive and judicial powers. The legislative power is vested in the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) that consists of two houses namely the House of Representatives (DPR) - composed of representatives of political parties, and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) - composed of representatives from each province in Indonesia. Each province is represented by 4 delegates that are elected by the people in the respective region.

The executive branch is centralized on the president, vice president, and the cabinet of ministers. The cabinet in Indonesia is a presidential one, in which the ministers report to the president and do not represent the political parties in the parliament. The objective is to maintain government stability, mindful of the strong position that the legislative branch holds in Indonesia. Nonetheless, important and strategic ministerial posts are generally held by ministers without party portfolios (originating from figures who are deemed experts in their field).

Substantial restructuring has occurred since President Suharto's resignation in 1998 and the short, transitional Habibie administration in 1998 and 1999. The Habibie government established political reform legislation that formally set up new rules for the electoral system, the House of Representatives (DPR), the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), and political parties without changing the 1945 Indonesian constitution. After these reforms, the constitution now limits the president to two terms in office.

The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) was previously the highest state institution. However, in the wake of the Fourth Amendment of the 1945 Constitution, the MPR no longer holds that position. The membership of the MPR was modified following the period of 1999-2004, to include not only the members of the parliament (DPR) but also the members of the DPD. The DPR members and the DPD members are elected every five years. Since 2004, the MPR has become a bicameral parliament with the DPD as its second chamber. Previously, members of the Assembly (MPR) are all members of the House (DPR) in addition to representatives of groups.

The constitution, as amended in the post-Suharto era, now provides for the direct election by popular vote of the president and vice president. Under the 2004 amendment, only parties or coalitions of parties that gained at least 3% of the House of Representatives (DPR) seats or 5% of the vote in national legislative elections were eligible to nominate a presidential and vice presidential ticket. The law provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage. The constitution provides for national elections every five years.

Prior to 2004, some legislative seats had been reserved for representatives of the armed forces. The military has been a significant political force throughout Indonesian history, though it had ceded its formal political role by 2004. The armed forces shaped the political environment and provided leadership for Suharto's New Order from the time it came to power in the wake of the abortive 1965 uprising. Military officers, especially from the army, were key advisers to Suharto and Habibie and had considerable influence on policy.

Under the dual function concept ("dwifungsi"), the military asserted a role in socio-political affairs. This concept was used to justify placement of officers in the civilian bureaucracy at all government levels and in regional and national legislatures. Although the military retains influence, the wide-ranging democratic reforms instituted since 1999 abolished "dwifungsi" and ended the armed forces' formal involvement in government administration. The police were separated from the military in 1999, further reducing the military's direct role in governmental matters. Control of the military by the democratically elected government has been strengthened.

Indonesia created the Assembly of Regional Representatives (DPD) in 2004 as an 'upper house' which would function to bring the concerns of Indonesia's diverse regions to the national level. Like the U.S. Senate, it is representative but not proportional, and consists of four members from each of Indonesia's 33 provinces. DPD members consider themselves the purest representation of the people's interests because they are elected directly rather than as part of a party ticket. However, the DPD has little legislative power. Although it drafts and consults on legislation, only the House of Representatives (DPR) may pass legislation.

DPR members automatically are members of the People's Consultative Assembly, a fully elected body consisting of the 550 DPR members and 128 members of the House of Regional Representatives (DPD). All adult citizens, age 17 or older, are eligible to vote except active members of the military and the police, convicts serving a sentence of five years or more, persons suffering from mental disorders, and persons deprived of voting rights by an irrevocable verdict of a court of justice. Married juveniles are legally adults and allowed to vote. In 2007 the Constitutional Court ruled independent candidates could run for local office and that a political party's nomination was not required.

Indonesia's Constitutional Court made a major ruling in a unanimous decision rendered on 23 December 2008. The Court held that candidates with the most votes in the April 2009 legislative elections were guarantied legislative seats. Based on the 2008 election law now on the books, legislative seats were distributed to candidates that secured at least 30 percent of the vote and the remaining seats were then allocated to candidates based on a list submitted by political parties. The Court ruled, it said, in the interests of democracy and the idea that Indonesia must be governed by its people and not by political parties.

According to Chief Justice Md. Mahfud: "The philosophical basis of every election is that it be determined by the number of votes won." He added: "Given that Indonesia adopts a system of direct election for the president and vice president, it will be fair if members of the House of Representatives are those who are directly elected by the people."

The Court required that the General Election Commission (KPU) begin drafting new regulations in order to implement the court's ruling. The KPU announced that it would comply in time for the April elections. The case had been lodged by four candidates of the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) who asserted that the law, as written, was unconstitutional and undemocratic.

On 01 October 2009, the new members of the Indonesian legislature were sworn into office for a five year term of office. It was expected that this DPR will be more responsive to constituents' concerns, because for the first time voters directly elected their representatives. In the past political parties were on the ballot rather than candidates. Previously, parties created ranked lists of candidates and allocated the seats received to the candidates highest on its list. This allowed the party elite to decide which candidates actually received seats. Indonesia's Constitutional Court recently mandated that candidates who receive the most votes should be awarded seats.

Indonesia's 2004 national elections proceeded in an exceedingly peaceful and democratic manner, and gave Indonesians for the first time the right to directly elect their President. The direct Presidential election itself was a product of sweeping constitutional reforms aimed at strengthening democratic institutions, accountability and transparency, and separation of powers.

The president, elected for a 5-year term, is the top government and political figure. In 1999, the MPR selected Abdurrahman Wahid, also known as Gus Dur, as the fourth President. The MPR removed Gus Dur in July 2001, immediately appointing then-Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri as the fifth President. The president and the vice president were elected by popular vote for the first time on September 20, 2004. Previously, the MPR selected Indonesia's president. In 2004, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was directly elected to succeed Megawati. He was re-elected in 2009. The president, assisted by an appointed cabinet, has the authority to conduct the administration of the government.




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