Path: ICPP > ICPP 1980 > List of Countries --> Indonesia
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 707-709

INDONESIA: The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-1962
 (Text as published in 1980 citation above)

The Dutch reluctantly recognized the sovereignty of Indonesia in 1949, and a new constitution adopted in marked the founding of the Republic of Indonesia. Under this constitution, the government consisted of a president of limited formal power, a unicameral legislature and a cabinet responsible to the legislature. The first legislature, which lasted from 1950 until the spring 1956, was not popularly elected, however, but consisted of the membership of the House and Senate of the old Dutch-created federal system, the Working Committee of the KNIP (the Central Indonesian National Committee, an advisory council to the president), and the High Advisory Council. There were many party groupings in this legislature, and no party ever held more than 52 of the 236 seats. In the first popular elections in the fall of 1955, four major parties--the Nationalist Party (PNI), two Muslim parties (Masjumi and Nahdlatul Ulama), and the Communist Party (PKI)--received about 80 percent of the vote, but none had more than 57 seats in the 273 seat parliament. The multiplicity of parties produced coalition government and cabinet instability. Corruption, party rivalry, fear of the Communists, and government ineffectiveness in dealing with economic problems contributed to disillusionment with parliamentary democracy. Regional dissatisfaction with the Jakarta government led to army takeovers in certain areas.

In February 1957, President Sukarno proposed revising Indonesia's political system away from western parliamentary democracy and required that all parties, including the Communists, be represented in the cabinet and that all social groups be represented in a National Council. Vice President Hatta had resigned in opposition to this policy of "guided democracy," and the Masjumi Party also refused to accept Sukarno's proposals. New army coups in March outside the island of Java produced a decree of martial law, the collapse of Ali Sastroamidjojo's cabinet, and an increase of Sukarno's powers. Failing an attempt by Suwirjo, chairman of the PNI, to form a coalition cabinet of all major parties and to establish a National Council, Sukarno himself formed a cabinet, but one that contained no Communists and that was boycotted by the Masjumi Party. This cabinet headed by Djuanda Kartawidjaja and supposedly responsible to parliament, was in fact responsible to Sukarno, whose influence grew at the expense of parliament. In February 1958, regional leaders in Sumatra demanded that the new Djuanda cabinet resign, that Hatta or someone else form a new cabinet until elections were held, and that Sukarno return to a constitutional role. The dissident leaders proclaimed a revolutionary government but received little support, and the revolt was broken by June. The roles of the regional leaders and the Masjumi Party were seriously weakened, while the central army leadership became stronger. The army would have supported Sukarno's elimination of political parties and movement toward a Guided Democracy, but Sukarno feared confronting the army without some party support. He thus resisted the army's plans for outlawing the Communist Party, by then the only party with a strong organizational backing. Thereafter, until 1962, Sukarno governed by playing the army against the Communist Party.

Civil liberties were curtailed, and the elections scheduled for September 1959 were postponed. Sukarno decreed that the 1945 constitution, which gave more power to the president, would be readopted. The army's representation was increased in the new cabinet, and all ministers were prohibited from membership in any party. In March 1960, Sukarno dissolved the old parliament and replaced it in June 1960 with a parliament divided about equally between functional groups and political parties. But the Masjumi and the PSI received no seats, and the Communists were underrepresented, although they made up in representation through the functional groups. In July, he introduced regulations requiring parties to be above a minimum size and to declare themselves in full ideological agreement with Sukarno. In April 1961, according to Kahin (1963, p. 666), he formally recognized eight parties: "the PNI, Partindo (a small party which had split off the PNI's left wing), IPKI (a small party with army connections), the NU, the Catholic Party, that section of the PSII (a small Islamic party) led by those of its leaders closest to Soekarno [sic], the PKI, and the Murba (a small nationalist-Communist party). Three months later the Parkindo (Protestant) and Perti (a small Islamic party) were added to the approved list."

The Masjumi and PSI parties were proscribed and their leaders arrested in January, 1962. But Sukarno was still without a major political organization entirely his own throughout our time period.

Continuity and Change since 1962

Indonesia displayed far more change than continuity, as none of our four original parties survived until 1978 and three new parties appeared. All but one of the original parties, however, contributed descendants to the new parties.

Original Parties, Terminated

533 Communist Party. Once the most powerful political organization in Indonesia, the Communist Party (PKI) was literally destroyed following its abortive attempt to purge the army leadership in 1965. When generals were found murdered, anticommunist spirit was aroused throughout the country and thousands of Communists were reported killed. The party was formally banned in 1966, but only a small segment of its original leadership remained. What was left, moreover, split into Moscow and Peking factions, leading us to regard the old PKI as ending in 1966.

531 Nationalist Party. The Nationalist Party, which regularly held around 20 percent of the legislative seats, terminated in 1973, when it joined with other non-Islamic parties in the Indonesian Democratic party to "simplify" the Indonesian party system, which was desired by President Suharto.

532 Muslim Scholars' Party. The Muslim Scholars (Nahdatul Ulama, NU), also a stable fixture in politics for years, abandoned its separate existence in 1973 and merged with other Islamic parties into the Unity Development Party.

534 Council of Indonesian Muslim Association. Commonly called Masjumi, this was one of the two largest parties when it was banned by Sukarno in 1960 for continued criticism of his government. The ban continued under President Suharto, but former Masjumi members were allowed to create the Muslim Party of Indonesia (PMI) in 1968. Also known as Parmusi, this party is regarded as a continuation of Masjumi. Nevertheless, it too ended in 1973 upon merger into the Unity Development Party.

New Parties, Continuing

535 Golkar. The original name was Sekber Golongan Karya, which stood for Secretariat of Functional Groups when it was created in 1964. It was organized by the army and the government in 1970 as a party, governmental employees to contest the 1971 elections. With such backing, its success in winning 63 percent of the vote is understandable.

536 Unity Development. The Indonesian name is Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP). It was created in 1973 as a merger of four Islamic parties: the Muslim Scholars' Party, the Indonesian Islamic Party, the United Islamic Party of Indonesia, and the Muslim Teachers' Party (PERTII).

537 Indonesian Democratic Party. This party also came into existence in 1973 through a merger of five non-Islamic parties: the Indonesian Nationalist Party, the Upholders of Indonesian Independence, the Catholic Party, the Protestant Party, and the People's Party.


The two nongovernmental parties formed in 1973 maintained their identity in the 1977 elections, which, however, Golkar dominated with 62 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, the Muslim PPP exercises some degree of independence in parliament, opposing some aspects of government policy-"the first time that any party had done so since President Suharto took power" (Keesing's Contemporary Archives, July 7, 1978, p. 29073). Entering 1979, therefore, Indonesia had a type of three-party system, but one dominated by a large government-sponsored party and operating in a legislature in which 22 percent of the members are appointed and thus also supportive of the government. While the party system has been "simplified" and bears little resemblance to that before 1962, parties do not seem to have gained much in influence. The stability of the system, especially in the face of a resurgence of Islamic sentiment, will depend less on the role these groups play in parliament than on the ability of the government to cope with the increasingly serious socioeconomic problems that cut across Indonesia today.

1. Our study of party politics in Indonesia is based on a file of 3,082 pages from 83 documents, all of which are in English (see Table 3.1). The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the file was done by Richard Hula, who also coded the Indonesian parties on the variables in the ICPP conceptual framework. Allan Goodman was our outside consultant.