Indonesia Table of Contents
Legislative authority is constitutionally vested in the House of People's Representatives (often shortened to House of Representatives or DPR). This 500-member body meets annually, opening on August 16, the eve of National Day when the president delivers his National Day speech. Four hundred of the DPR seats are electorally contested by the three political parties (Golkar, PPP, and PDI) in provincial constituencies, which in the 1987 general election were based on a population ratio of approximately 1 representative per 400,000 people. Each administrative territorial district (kabupaten) is guaranteed at least one representative no matter what its population. A further 100 seats are allocated to military representatives who are appointed on the recommendation of ABRI. The justification for the ABRI faction is that since members of the armed forces cannot take part in elections, their political rights as a sociopolitical and defense force were served through guaranteed DPR seats. Faced with civilian resentment about the privileged position of ABRI in the parliamentary bodies, Suharto warned that denying the military legitimate input into the legislative process could lead to a coup. However, in his 1992 National Day speech, Suharto conceded that the number of guaranteed ABRI seats could be adjusted.
The DPR is led by a speaker elected from the membership. From 1988 to 1992, this position was filled by Lieutenant General (retired) Kharis Suhud, who in the previous session was leader of the ABRI faction. Work is organized through eleven permanent committees, each with a specific functional area of governmental affairs. The legislative process begins with the submission by the government of a bill to the DPR. Although members can initiate a bill, it must be accompanied by an explanatory memorandum signed by at least thirty legislators. Before a bill is approved, it must have four readings unless excepted by the DPR Steering Committee. The first reading is its introduction in an open plenary session. This reading is followed by a general debate in open plenary session with the government's right of reply. The bill is then discussed in committee with the government or initiating members. The final discussion of the draft legislation takes place in open plenary session, after which the DPR makes its decision. The deliberations of the DPR are designed to produce consensus. It is the political preference of the leadership to avoid overt expressions of less than complete support. This position is justified by the claim of a cultural predisposition to avoid, if possible, votes in which majority-minority opposing positions are recorded. If votes are necessary, however, a quorum requires a two-thirds majority. On issues of nomination and appointment voting is by secret ballot but on all other matters by show of hands.
With the built-in Golkar-ABRI faction absolute majority, the DPR has routinely approved government legislation. During Suharto's fifth term (1988-93), however, with the appearance of many younger DPR members, there was a new willingness to use the forum for fuller and more forthright discussions of public issues and policies, even by Golkar members. This openness paralleled a similar trend toward greater openness in nonlegislative elite circles that seemingly had received government encouragement. Part of the discussion inside and outside of the DPR had to do with increasing the role and institutional capability of the parliament in order to enhance political participation.
Data as of November 1992