Indonesian legislative election, 1999

Indonesian legislative election, 1999

The Indonesian legislative election, 1999, held on June 7, 1999, was the first election since the end of the New Order (Indonesia) and the first free election in Indonesia since 1955. With the ending of restrictions on political activity following the fall of Suharto, a total of 48 parties contested the 462 seats up for election in the People's Representative Council. A further 38 seats were reserved for the armed forces.


Under the New Order, only two political parties forcibly merged in 1973 plus the functional group 'Golkar' had been allowed to participate in elections Liddle (1978) p40] Evans (2003) pp. 21-21] . With the start of the Reform Era, more than 100 new political parties emerged Evans (2003) p28] . New elections were called for 1999 and 148 parties registered with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Of these, only 48 passed the selection process, overseen by intellectual Nurcholish Madjid Friend (2003) p406] Salomo "et al"(2004) p.xxxv] The elections were to be overseen by an independent General Elections Commission (KPU) of 53 members, one from each party and five government representatives "Kompas" 27 July 1999]

Electoral System

The system used was based on proportional representation at the provincial level. Within each province, parties were awarded seats in proportion to their share of the vote. The largest number of seats was in East Java province, with 82, while the lowest was in Bengkulu and East Timor with 4 each. Voters chose parties, not people as the candidate list was closed, meaning the decision as to who would sit in the legislature was decided by the parties Evans (2003) pp. 126-127] .


The official election campaign began on May 19 1999 and ended on June 4 to allow two 'rest days' before the vote itself. It was divided into three stages, with different parties being allowed to campaign on different days "Kompas" 29 April 1999 p40] . However before the campaign there was violence between supporters of rival parties. Four people were killed in fighting between followers of the United Development Party and the National Awakening Party on May 1 and three more died in clashes between Golkar and Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle supporters on May 11 "Kompas" 2 May 1999] "Sinar Indonesia Baru" 12 May 1999] "Kompas" 6 June 1999] .

On the first day of the campaign, there was a parade of party vehicles in Central Jakarta. The Golkar float was attacked and damaged "Kompas" 20 May 1999] . The traffic circle in front of the Hotel Indonesia was a popular spot for rallies "Kompas" 24 May 1999] "Kompas" 1 June 1999] Friend (2003) p412] Meanwhile there was an increase of people heading for Singapore to escape possible violence as polling day neared, with one newspaper reporting that more than 78,000 people had left "Sinar Indonesia Baru" 30 May 1999] .

As well as rallies, the major parties took out full color advertisements in newspapers. Each party was also given air time TV for statements by lone spokespeople. There were also ads in the newspapers urging people to use their vote Friend (2003) p408] "Kompas" 3 June 1999]

In the final week, the main parties held huge rallies in the capital: the National Awakening Party on June 1, the National Mandate Party on June 2, the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle on June 3 and Golkar on June 4, at which its supporters were attacked "Kompas" 2 June 1999] "Kompas" 3 June 1999] "Kompas" 4 June 1999] "Kompas" 5 June 1999] .

At one minute past midnight on June 5, all party flags, banners and posters began to be removed as the campaign officially ended. International observers continued to arrive to oversee the election, among them former US president Jimmy Carter "Kompas" 6 June 1999] "Kompas" 5 June 1999] .

Polling Day

In the last few days before the vote on June 7, newspapers carried advertisements sponsored by the Indonesian Election Committee explaining how to vote and urging people to do so "Kompas" 3, 5 & 5 June 1999] .

On the day itself, polls opened at 8am. People cast their vote by piercing the party symbol on the ballot paper and then dipped a finger in indelible ink to prevent repeat voting. When the votes were counted, each ballot paper was held up for onlookers to see. Friend (2003) p415] Evans (2003) p203]

There was independent monitoring down to the level of polling stations by Indonesians as well as by 100 observers and support staff from 23 counties led by Jimmy Carter. On polling day, Carter said that it would have been extremely difficult to manipulate the election data because of the well-prepared information network and because the information was easy to access "Media Indonesia" 8 June 1999] . One way the public could access the latest results was by sending a Short message service text to a specific number. The sender then received information about provincial or party results "Kompas" 7 June 1999] .

On June 9, Carter's team reported that although there had been "shortcomings" and allegations of financial abuses, they did not appear to have had a major impact on the polling day activities Friend (2003) p417] .


The count was slow, with votes taking several weeks to count. Before he left Indonesia, Carter expressed his concern about this Friend (2003) pp. 417, 424] At a meeting at the General Election Commission building on June 26, only 22 of the 53 members of the commission were prepared to accept the result. These comprised the representatives of 17 of the parties (with 93% of the vote between them) and the five government representatives. Eventually, later that same day President Jusuf Habibie in a live TV broadcast declared the results were valid. The Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle led by Megawati Sukarnoputri had won the largest share of the vote with Golkar in second place.

The process of allocating seats in the People's Representative Council took several months The Indonesian Election Committee (PPI)announced the results on September 1. A total of 21 parties had won seats, with the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle being awarded 153 and Gollkar 120. There were ten parties with only one seat each "Kompas" 2 September 1999] .


In October, the People's Consultative Assembly, made up of the People's Representative Council and 200 nominated members, a toal of 700, met to elect the president and vice-president. On October 20, Abdurrahman Wahid, known as Gus Dur, leader of the National Awakening Party was elected, beating Megawati Sukarnoputri by 373 votes to 313. This triggered rioting among Megawati's supporters. The folowind day, Megawati was elected vice-president, beating Hamzah Haz from the United Development Party by 396 votes to 284 Friend (2003) pp. 461 - 462] .


* Evans, Kevin Raymond, (2003) "The History of Political Parties & General Elections in Indonesia", Arise Consultancies, Jakarta, ISBN 979-97445-0-4
* Friend, Theodore (2003) "Indonesian Destinies" The Belknap Press of Harvard university Press, ISBN 0-974-01137-6
* Loveard, Keith, (1999) "Suharto: Indonesia's Last Sultan", Horizon Books, Singapore, ISBN 981-04-1478-1
* Liddle, R. William, "The 1977 Indonesian and New Order Legitimacy", South East Asian Affairs 1978, Translation published in "Pemilu-Pemilu Orde Baru", LP3ES, Jakarta, ISBN 979-8015-88-6
* "Kompas" newspaper, Jakarta June, July, August and September 1999
* Salomo Simanungkalit "et al" (Eds) (2004) "Peta Politik Pemilhan Umum 1999-2004" ("Political Map of General Elections 1999-2004") Buku Kompas, Jakarta ISBN 979-709-114-7


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