During a book launch at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) on 12 June 2007 the need to simplify the Indonesian multiparty system was debated.
The public debate was organized on the occasion of the launch of two books published by the NIMD partner LIPI about the performance of Indonesian political parties in the transition era to democracy, which commenced in 1998. Some hundred guests attended the meeting in Jakarta, ranging from representatives of political parties, civil society organizations, students, researchers and journalists.
The debate revolved around a set of new legislation currently discussed in parliament, including a new party law and new electoral laws. According to LIPI researcher Syamsuddin Haris a big problem of the current system is the lack of ideology within the parties. Therefore, political parties play the role of political brokers, rather than aggregating and articulating the interests of their voters. He suggested that the proposed laws might create a competitive multiparty system in order to enhance an effective presidential system. It should be small in number, not more than eight parties, and ideologically competitive.
Golkar parliamentarian, Mr Ferry Mursidan Baldan, argued that simplifying the political party system, in the sense of enhancing its effectiveness, is a must. But this does not necessarily imply limiting the number of political parties. Instead, the new party system should help optimize the relations between parties and its constituents, the possibility for members to control their party, and the relations between legislative and executive bodies.
Like Mr Baldan, Dr. J. Kristiadi of the Indonesian think tank CSIS (Centre for Strategic and International Studies) argued that the democracy transition in Indonesia would benefit from a simplification of the political party system but he pointed also at the danger of limiting the number of parties. Not giving small and new parties a chance would mean legitimizing and establishing old parties which actually have not yet performed well. New and small parties might become good parties in the future.
The fourth and last speaker was Arbi Sanit, a senior political scientist at the University of Indonesia. He suggested that political parties should take action for the improvement of society and the functioning of political parties themselves. In his view, Indonesian political parties in the post-Suharto era have failed to address the people’s real needs. According to him, parties have to start delivering to their constituents. Otherwise people will be fed up and ignore the parties.
About the books presented at the book launch
Party and Local Parliament: the Era of Democracy Transition in Indonesia is based on research, conducted in 2004 to 2005 and was commissioned by NIMD. The book is available in English and Bahasa Indonesia at the LIPI centre.
Conflict between the President and the Parliament and the Dilemma of Democracy Transition in Indonesia by LIPI researcher Syamsuddin Haris. Available in Bahasa Indonesia at the LIPI centre.