Understanding Indonesia’s Political System

Indonesias political system

Indonesia is a unitary state in the form of a republic which means that sovereignty is in the hands of the people. Indonesia adheres to a presidential system of government, where the president is the head of state as well as the head of government.

Indonesia applies a decentralized, not centralized, government system. This gives privileges and rights to regions to be more independent in managing their territories.

Political decentralization in Indonesia has given more power to local governance. This system is implicit in regional political decision-making which is increasingly influenced by certain religious & cultural values. For example, political policies in predominantly Muslim areas usually have strict regulations regarding pork or alcohol distribution. This is different from areas where the majority of the population in Eastern Indonesia is Christian or on Bali, where the majority of the population is Hindu.

In general, the Indonesian political system adheres to the trias politica:


Included in the executive branch are the president, vice president and cabinet. The Indonesian electorate elects both the president and vice president in presidential elections held every 5 years. The president and vice president serve for five years and thereafter can be re-elected to the same office for one more term (hence a total of 10 years).

Ethnicity and religion have influence if someone wants to become president and vice president in Indonesia. A Muslim will get more popular support because the majority of Indonesia’s population is Muslim. There has never been a president and vice president of Indonesia who came from outside the Islamic religion. But for political positions at a lower level, political leaders who are not Muslim are still possible.

There are several categories of ideal presidential and vice-presidential candidates for most Indonesians: (retired) military officials, businessmen, technocrats and Muslim intellectual leaders. Therefore, most of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates’ strategies always involve this kind of consideration in their campaigns because their chances of winning are higher. For example, President Joko Widodo chose Ma’ruf Amin (who is a Muslim intellectual) as his vice president.


Included in the legislature is the People’s Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat/MPR). The MPR has the authority to draft or amend the Constitution and inaugurate (or dismiss) the president and vice president. The MPR is a bicameral legislative body consisting of the the Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah/DPD) and People’s Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat/DPR).

The DPR, which consists of 560 members, can form and approve laws, calculate the president’s joint annual budget, and oversee the implementation of laws and political issues. The DPR members are elected for a five-year term with a fair proportion of representation based on elections.

The DPD members handle decisions, laws, and issues related to the region they represent, thereby increasing regional representation at the national level. Each province in Indonesia selects four non-party candidates for the DPD (who will work in the government for five years). Indonesia has 32 provinces, so the DPD members each period are 132 members.


What is meant by the judiciary is the Supreme Court (Mahkamah Agung/MA). The MA is the highest court in the Indonesian judicial system. The MA is the highest court in the appeal process, and the MA also handles disputes in the lower courts. In 2003 a new court was formed, namely the Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi/MK). The MK monitors decisions made by the cabinet and parliament (MPR), and their position is parallel to the Indonesian Constitution.

Most legal cases can be handled by general courts, religious courts, administrative courts, and military courts. Apart from the MA and the MK, there is also a Judicial Commission (Komisi Yudisial/KY) which oversees the maintenance of office, dignity and behaviour of Indonesian judges.

Presidential Election System in Indonesia

Referring to the amended Law 1945 (UUD 1945), the presidential election system uses a two-round system or run-off system. In this system, presidential candidates who are declared winners in the elections must have a minimum of majority votes, or 50% + 1 of the total number of votes in the election.

If in the presidential election no one can get a majority vote, a second-round will be held which will be followed by each candidate who is in the first and second place based on the votes acquired.

The advantage of a two-round system or run-off system is that it generates winners with high legitimacy. The downside, this system is very high-priced because it is usually done in two rounds if no one gets a vote percentage above 50%. The president and vice president serve for five years and thereafter can be re-elected to the same office for one more term (hence a total of 10 years).

Creation of Law in Indonesia

Indonesia is a country of law. This is stated in the Constitution (UUD 1945) article 1, paragraph 3. The rule of law adopted by Indonesia is a rule of law that always considers all actions on two grounds: in terms of its use/purpose and terms of its legal basis.

The formation of law, in this case, written law or law in Indonesia, is basically a state political policy formed by the House of Representatives (DPR) and the President.

The formation of law is a formal agreement between the House of Representatives (legislative) and the Government (executive), in this case, the President, to regulate the state and nation’s whole life. The two bodies act on behalf of the state in forming laws or regulations.

National Law and Local Law (Customary Law)

Law in Indonesia can also be divided into 2: national law and local law.

Local law or also known as customary law is a legal system that only applies in a certain region, but not in another region.

Meanwhile, national law is a legal entity built and formed to achieve the country’s objectives that originate from the philosophy and constitution of the state. National law contains the objectives, basis and ideals of the Indonesian state law. National law is nothing but a legal system that is derived from the cultural values of the Indonesian people that have existed for a long time and are developing           .

Major Political Parties in Indonesia

Indonesia is a country that has a multiparty system in politics that has slightly different ideological points. That means there are many political parties in Indonesia. Of the dozens of political parties registered in Indonesia, only 16 parties have passed to participate in the 2019 and 2020 elections.

Based on a survey conducted by Charta Politika Indonesia released in July 2020[1], PDIP, Gerindra, Golkar, PKB and PKS are the 5 largest political parties in Indonesia. The five political parties have high electability.

  1. Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDIP) is a political party in Indonesia that was formed since 1973. PDIP occupies the first position in obtaining votes and seats in the House of Representative (DPR). Currently, Megawati Soekarnoputri, who is the first former female president in Indonesia, is listed as the leader of the PDIP.
  2. Gerakan Indonesia Raya (Gerindra) is a political party in Indonesia founded and chaired by Prabowo Subianto. Based on the Gerindra Party Manifesto document, the Gerindra Party’s identity are: Nationality, People, Religion and Social Justice.
  3. Golongan Karya (Golkar) is a political party that has a high dominance in Indonesian politics. The Golkar Party emerged as the winner in Indonesia’s elections such as 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, and 1997. Currently, the Golkar Party is led by Airlangga Hartanto.
  4. Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa (PKB) is a political party with the ideology of Conservatism in Indonesia. The political party chaired by Muhaimin Iskandar received around 9% of the votes at the 2019 legislative elections in Indonesia.
  5. Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS), previously known as the Partai Keadilan (PK), was an Islamic-based political party founded in 1998. The birth of PKS was closely related to the campus mass-based Islamic movement and intellectuals that emerged in response to the New Order government’s political pressure on Muslims. Currently, PKS is chaired by Ahmad Syaikhu.

[1] Rilis Survei Nasional “Trend 3 Bulan Kondisi Politik, Ekonomi dan Hukum Pada Masa Pandemi Covid-19” – Charta Politika


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