Political party is an organization that is locally articulated, that interacts with and seeks to attract the electoral support of the general public. It plays a direct and substantive role in political recruitment and education. Political party is also committed to the capture or maintenance of power, either alone or in coalition with others. It becomes the vehicle for mass political participation based on political culture and ideology. In a democratic polity, political parties play a significant role that they become the backbone of the polity. The quality of democratic political system depends on the ability of the political parties to absorb demands and aspirations of the people and deliver them back as a product of political process. With Indonesia's return to democracy in 1999, operational controls on political parties and the ban on the establishment of new parties were lifted. This situation has allowed greater opportunities for all Indonesians to actively participate in Indonesia's transition to democracy.
Similarly, moral acceptance of the subjects to the authority of the rulers is deemed important for the justification of their right to rule. Legitimacy relates to the acceptance of power by the people and the process whereby power gains acceptance by the people which essentially includes the process of mobilization of support through ideology, institution building, system of rewards and punishment, performance or manipulation. It involves the capacity of the system to engender and maintain the belief that the existing political institutions are the most appropriate ones for the society. Furthermore, legitimacy brings about stability and possibility to create changes and improvements in the society. It also expands the authority of the ruler as well as limiting it. Legitimate government will bring about political stability and eventually deliver what the voters expect. Thus in order to create political stability and changes in the society, rulers or regimes need to have legitimacy, the moral right to rule, failing of which crisis of legitimacy and stability is the consequence. Democratically administered elections will provide a thoroughfare for a party or coalition of parties to gain necessary political legitimacy to rule.
In the same vein, the electorate in a democratic polity plays a very significant role: it can either establish or bring a government down. No party or parties shall possess any moral right to rule or legitimacy unless it receives endorsement from the electorate. As such, government is merely a form of representation of the people through a democratic process called elections. Once installed, a government is expected to be effective: to run its large administration efficiently and to set goals for policy that are realistic and achievable, and within the broad outlines of its election program. Moreover, it is expected that the government is to be publicly accountable: "the government must be able to give an account of their actions and policies, to explain and justify them to an appropriate audience." The government must act within the terms and conditions of their authority, and conform to standards of conduct that are appropriate to their office.
However, in emerging democratic society like Indonesia, many of a time we find out that once elected, the representatives tend to forget the fact they are essentially subjected to being publicly accountable. They neglect their constituents who have successfully catapulted them to power. Once elected, they would mostly indulge in their own business and greedily reaping the "fruits" of being successfully elected as the "respected members" of people's representatives while neglecting their foremost responsibility and duty as people's representatives: to articulate, defend and support the interests, preferences and grievances of those whom they represent. Instead of focussing on their professional responsibility as people’s representatives, personal gains becomes their main agenda in office. They ignore the fact that they are there for a reason: to serve the public at large.
To rectify this situation, one should return to the fundamentals of representation. Political representation essentially implies “government of, by and for the people”. In parliaments, whether at the national, provincial or local levels, the representatives are obliged to articulate the aspirations and supports from their constituents, and turn them into policies or laws, which would affect not only their constituents but also the public in general. Sound judgment and bold arguments of these representatives are thus functions of a good policy or law. Without them, everybody loses, including those who are not their direct constituents.
Such fundamentals will highlight the need for people's representatives to fully comprehend their duties and responsibilities in a system of political representation. They must realize that the positions they are holding come with huge responsibility. They are merely the extension of people's power and their ultimate duties and responsibilities are being professionally serving the public, not only their own constituents but the public at large. The representatives should be held accountable to the people whom they supposedly represent.
Problems of Participation
Thursday, February 12, 2009 3:09 PM
Larry Diamond has noted in one of his works that one paradox of democracy is that in some circumstances a political system can be made more stably democratic by making it somewhat less representative. At the same time, electoral system is the central rule of the game determining who governs in a polity. Its position is so important that careful steps should be taken before taking any decision to adopt any kind of electoral system, be it the proportional representation, the district system or the mixture of the two. This is what has so far been done by the so called political reformers in the post-Suharto Indonesia. In the name of limiting ethnic or regional movements and promoting more stable politics by encouraging broad-based parties, Indonesian political reformers purposely adopted an electoral system that provides necessary means to achieve the agenda of "stable democratic polity" in Indonesia.
Through a combination of spatial registration for political parties, pressures for smaller parties to amalgamate into larger ones, reductions in the electoral system's proportionality requirement, and regional vote-distribution requirements for presidential elections, political reformers in Indonesia have attempted to engineer the development of a few large parties with a national reach. However, the results of both 1999 and 2004 general elections showed the opposite. Instead of resulting in a moderate multi-partism, the general elections further fragmented the already fragmented party system. While the numbers of parties have reduced significantly in the 2004 general elections, on the contrary, parliamentary fragmentation increased. Measures to promote nationally focused parties and limit the enfranchisement of minorities have had some modest successes, but have not fundamentally changed the nature of electoral politics.
So far as the process of political engineering in Indonesia is concerned, it has been focussing more on protecting the incumbents and the continuance of the status quo. It is yet to focus on utilizing the opportunity to engineer substantial political transformation. Even though legislative framework continued to be enhanced through enactment of new laws prior to the successor election with the aim of creating more credible electoral process and achieving more representative results, this incrementalism has resulted in the elections being tightly scheduled creating major logistical complexity with little time for appropriate planning. Moreover, the drastic reduction in the district magnitude in the 2004 general elections has considerably raised the threshold for electoral victory and made it much more difficult for smaller parties to win seats than at previous elections, when districts were based on entire provinces. This electoral arrangement is considerably more advantageous to the large, well-organized, established parties than towards smaller, new parties, and threatens the prospect of wider political representation.
Several observers had suspected that the prolonged last minute preparation may be deliberate to avoid public scrutiny to the internal political process of the parties in putting forward nomination and as a cloak to shift public attention from demanding political accountability. Furthermore, the tight scheduling is believed to have benefited political elites close to the central party boards and deprived regional candidates. Political oligarchy has been holding captive the efforts to achieve the common good and to improve the process of political representation.