Indonesia’s Legislative Elections...The Democratic Way
Indonesia’s Legislative Elections...The Democratic Way
Friday, April 3,2009 22:55
By Jenin Muhammad

All the world’s eyes were on Obama’s new policies and strategies towards pushing democracy in the Middle east and his G20 trip that will be followed by a visit to Turkey but in the same time no great attention is being paid to an important event in the life of Democracy in the Muslim world, Indonesian’s legislative elections on April 9.


The influence of Islam on politics in Indonesia, the world"s most populous Muslim country, is playing a huge role and it will put the Islamic democratic practice of Indonesia under spot light if they succeeded to achieve what the west claims that parties with Islamic agendas will never achieve, namely governing through Islamic democratic means.


The April 9 national elections will determine the makeup of Indonesia"s 550-seat parliament, as well as its regional representation council, provincial, county and city assemblies. More than 38 parties are vying for these seats, but very few are expected to get the 20 percent of parliamentary seats needed to nominate a presidential candidate in the July election.

 In 2004 elections, voters were only able to cast ballots for a party, with seats allocated according to the party"s predetermined list. This year, voters will directly choose those who will sit in the national and local assemblies.


The new system, which mirrors the direct vote in the 2004 presidential election, has brought with it a new set of problems. But it is undeniably a democratic advance that will make legislators more accountable to the people. If they do not perform, citizens have the option to vote them out of office individually in the next election, rather than punishing the party as a whole.


It is worth noting that Indonesia has not felt the impact of the global recession, partly because its economy is more isolated than other countries, which could be a wise move to be taken by Arab and Muslim countries to rescue their economy, but also because the government has taken steps to protect the currency and the economy from the downturn.

Undoubtedly, voters are more concerned about economic issues. "Like everywhere in the world, economics is the key factor, when inflation was high, the president"s popularity is low. Now that inflation has come down, the president"s popularity is high, and he and his party are doing very well in the polls coming into the election." according to James Castle, who analyzes Indonesian politics and economy.

Meanwhile a report, jointly authored by the Wahid Institute (headed by

former president Abdurrahman Wahid ), the Maarif Institute and the Bhinneka Tunngal Ika (Unity in Diversity) movement, Thursday, April 2, claiming that Indonesia"s moderate practice of Islam is being threatened by radical groups seeking to infiltrate mosques and schools to implement their agenda.


It is should be noted that these elections are very crucial in the country"s history, in these elections about 171 million Indonesians, across more than 17,000 islands, are eligible to vote in the ballots. 

The main issues exercising voters are likely to be the economy, employment opportunities and the fight against corruption - especially high-level corruption, which continues to plague Indonesian politics. Presidential elections are due to follow in July. 


So this election is a new experience for most Indonesians. A thing I only wish for the Egyptians and Arabs to have the chance to experience... the right to choose their leaders.