Seminar on “Elektabilitas” Politics and the 2017 Local Elections: quo vadis Indonesia’s Party System?

This presentation reviewed the recent elections for governors, district heads and mayors, looking in particular at the relationship between parties and their most prominent candidates, usually chosen for “electability” above all else. The recent gubernatorial election in Jakarta was a major focus of the presentation, along with references to other areas.


Dr Hui Yew-Foong chairing Dr Max Lane’s seminar (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Friday, 24 March 2017 – Dr Max Lane presented on the significance of “elektabilitas” in Indonesian elections. While political parties everywhere are concerned about the electability of their candidates, in Indonesia, the dynamic is led by a process of multi-party consensus centered around the most electable candidate. That is, the politics are primarily determined on assessments of elektabilitas rather than on policy or ideological compatibility. This has been primarily a local process. At the national level, at this point in time, the Gerindra and the PKS are in a stable opposition vs Widodo government, and also in the Jakarta elections. But at the local level, Gerindra and PKS can be seen in coalition with parties who are members of the national ruling coalition, including with the PDIP itself. There is no pattern to how coalitions form anywehre in the country. Ideology and policy play no role – except now partially in Jakarta. Policy discussion is bankrupt, and decentralisation happens without active national agency. 


To explain elektabilitas, it is important to remember the floating mass policy implemented for more than 33 years that confined politics to the elites. After Suharto fell, although there is more space for participation, only components of the elite had the resources and organisational experience to use the new space. Economically, more than 90% of Indonesian enterprises are micro-enterprises, Sukarno’s “merk kecil”, which encouraged localised, highly divergent market and mentality. 2013-2014 created a new kind of stage: that of a perceived record achievement in office, represented by Widodo. The gains that the current conservative side is making are due to the ideological vacuum that otherwise exists—a struggle for power at the national level only peripherally connected to the local level. 

Dr Max Lane at the seminar (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)