After tough debate the bill on political parties in Indonesia was passed into law on 6 December 2007. The bill dealt with the basic assumptions and principles of political parties and, amongst others, stipulated the regulation of party financing and female participation in politics. The bill received a mixed review from small and new political parties, Islamic-based political parties, and civil society groups. On the positive side, female participation in parties was lauded by all, yet certain aspects of party funding were criticised by several Indonesian NGOs.
A large part of the discussion dealt with secular and non-secular points of departure of political parties. Ganjar Pranowo, Chair of the Special Committee, that was installed to deliberate the bill, concluded that “we are committed to Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution but other principles are allowed as long as they are an elaboration of these two.” This implies that Islamic parties can continue to adhere to their Islamic principles and that parties in general can follow their particular political characteristics, - as long as it does not contradict Pancasila or the Constitution. It seems therefore that Indonesia's first and foremost national pillars did not alter drastically.
Another main feature of the law concerns the regulation of party financing. Thus far, political parties received little public finance and were not allowed to receive large donations from individuals and private businesses. These rules have become more flexible, the parties will receive more state funding and they are allowed to receive more donations from individuals and businesses. State political party funding will be based on the number of votes, as opposed to the number of seats in parliament. This could indicate that large parties will be the main beneficiaries of this new law, since the government subsidy per vote is relatively bigger than funding per seat.
A fair amount of NGOs criticised the new law on the aspect of public and private party financing. In their view, the lack of limitations on public/private donations could lead to an increased control on political parties by political financiers, who could use a large donation as an entry point to control the political party – sanctions for violation of the law in terms of accountability and party management appear to be lenient. Nevertheless, since parties are legally allowed to collect a large amount funds, it is expected that illicit fundraising will not rampantly take place.
Last but not least the position of women in parties is part and parcel of the new law. 30 percent of the party functionaries will be occupied by women in the future. This is the most positive outcome of the law, since a major vehicle for increasing female participation is to ensure a significant number of women in party boards and executive committees. However, in this respect, ensuring female participation will probably remain on the political agendas of Indonesian parties in the coming years, since female politicians, for a variety of reasons, tend to be somewhat reluctant to enter the political field.
- article by Annie van de Pas, NIMD programme officer, representing the Green Left Party -