The problem of presidential-multiparty system (Hanta Yuda A.R.)

(The writer is a political analyst at The Indonesian Institute.)

The discourse on the need to increase the level of parliamentary threshold — the minimum threshold that is required to gain seats in the parliament — from 2.5 percent in the 2009 legislative elections to 5 percent in the 2014 elections in the revised elections law has been increasingly discussed.

The main argument to increase the parliamentary threshold is to simplify the number of political parties, while at the same time improving the quality of democracy and the effectiveness of the presidential government.

The problem is that the extreme multiparty system is considered as one culprit that inhibits the workings of the presidential government and disrupts the quality of democracy.

This condition raises important questions. First, how does the fragmented multiparty system influence the political stability and the work of the presidential system in Indonesia?

Juan Linz and Arturo Velenzuela ( 1994 ) build an interesting thesis that the presidential system  applied over a multiparty political structure tends to result in a conflict between presidential and parliamentary institutions and will present an unstable democracy.

This view is also strengthened by Scott Mainwaring and Matthew Soberg Shugart ( 1997 ), who believe that this combination will give birth to a minority president and a divided government, a condition in which the president is very difficult to get political support in the parliament.

In 1998, the reform has led to democracy and  the purification of the presidential system in Indonesia.

However, the formulation of the purer presidentialism  mandated is also difficult to implement when it is combined with the multiparty political structure.

The combination of the vulnerable presidential system and the multiparty system had been proven strong enough in the five years of the administration of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) — Jusuf Kalla (JK), as well as in the one-year of the era of the SBY-Boediono administration.

At least, there are three political facts that portrait the instability and vulnerability of the government. First, the control of the parliament over the government is so strong,  so the policies of the President is very difficult  to gain political support in the parliament.

The questionnaire rights and the threat of withdrawing support for example have always been tools for the parties in the House to negotiate with the President.

The second fact, in the process of forming and reshuffling the Cabinet, the political parties — especially the parties in the House of Representatives — have cut the prerogative right of the President to intervene. The third fact, the support of the government coalition of political parties is not effective.

Although quantitatively the percentage of a coalition of parties supporting the government is very high — 75 percent of the seats in the House — it is very fragile and easily cracked. The Bank Century case becomes the clearest portrait of the fragility.

This political reality is proof of the vulnerability of the combination of presidential and multiparty systems. Moreover, the personality and leadership style of Yudhoyono are ones that are compromising and accommodating.

This is what has caused the presidentialism in the era of the SBY-JK and SBY-Boediono administrations be run half-heartedly (the half-hearted presidentialism). Then, is there any compromise that still allows the establishment of parties and that ensures the government runs effectively and stable?

The multiparty extreme (the high number of political parties), as it is now, needs to be pushed into a simple multiparty system, especially in regards to the number of parties in the parliament, on a daily basis, the President deals with the parties in the parliament, not the parties participating in the elections.

Therefore, what needs to be simplified is the number of parties in the parliament, not the number participating in the elections, to guarantee democracy and freedom.

At least, there is a five-tiered strategy of simplifying the parliament through institutional engineering: to apply the district electoral system (plurality/majority system) or mixed systems (mixed proportional); to minimize the number of electoral districts (district magnitude); to apply the threshold of seats in the parliament (parliamentary threshold); to simplify the number of factions in the parliament through the tightening of requirements for the formation of a faction (factional threshold), as well as making regulations to be directed to the formation of two political blocs (supporters and opposition).

The implementation of the electoral system — the First Past The Post system (FPTP), in which one representative is elected from each electoral district — based on proven experience of some countries will limit the number of parties.

An alternative solution if the district system still experiences resistance is to combine the district system and the proportional to become the mixed system.

The German experience provides some lessons that are interesting enough for Indonesia.

Strategies to reduce the scope of electoral districts will also be a catalyst toward the simplification of political parties. Because the smaller the scale of electoral districts and the less number of seats contested, the smaller also the opportunity for small parties to gain seats.

The increase of the parliamentary threshold in the 2014 elections will also simplify the parliament. If the parliamentary threshold, is consistently applied, the number of political parties will continue to decrease until the ideal number, approximately five political parties in parliament.

After that, the need to simplify the number of factions through the tightening of requirements for the formation of factions.

Ideally, there are only about three or four factions in the House so that the government can run more effectively. The next stage, the factions in the House need to be engineered institutionally into the “two- party system” in the parliament, that is, the two blocs of permanent coalitions in the parliament, the coalition government and opposition supporters.

The main objective is to simplify the polarization of political forces in the parliament to make the political process more efficient and stable.



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