Dr. La Ode Ida discussed the role of the Indonesian Regional Representative Council (DPD), one of two parliamentary chambers established during Reformasi, and its responsibility with respect to the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR).
The DPD was established after a constitutional amendment during Reformasi. It took approximately four years to amend the constitution, which resulted in five major changes: the President and Vice President became directly elected, stronger checks and balances were established among various branches of state, the power of the Executive was restrained and that of Parliament increased, a bicameral legislative system was established, and 20 percent of the national budget was earmarked for education.
Before the amendment, the People’s Representative Council (MPR) Indonesia’s legislative branch of government – had full authority; it was comprised of some elected members of political parties, as well as appointed representatives of interest groups, such as the army, police, and religious organizations. Now, the MPR is comprised of two institutions – the DPD and the DPR – all of whose members are directly elected.
Where the membership of the DPR is comprised solely of directly elected political party representatives, the membership of the DPD is a-political; DPD members do not represent political parties. The Council currently consists of 132 members, four members per province. This figure is up from 128 members in the 2004-2009 legislative session after a new province was added in 2005 and seats for four new members were allocated for the 2009-2014 session.
The DPR is proportional to the population; thus, with 60 percent of the population living in Java, approximately 60 percent of the seats in the DPR represent Java’s provinces.
Dr. La Ode Ida went on to discuss the composition of state institutions under the amended constitution, as well as the duties of the DPD. The duties of the DPD, among others, chiefly involve ensuring that the interests of the regions are represented. As a result, the DPD is involved in bills and discussions in the DPR that involve regional autonomy, the relationship between Jakarta and the regions, the merging or abolishing of regions, and the management of natural and other economic resources.
In the first DPD election in 2004, candidates could campaign on behalf of political parties, receive assistance from political parties, or be members of political parties. In the 2009 election this was adjusted to permit DPD candidates to be members of political parties so long as they do not receive funding from or campaign on behalf of any political party. Only 30 members of the DPD in elected in 2004 were reelected in 2009.
Question: From your description, it seems that amending the Constitution in Indonesia is slightly easier than doing so in the United States. Can you comment?
Answer: I cannot compare, but amending the Constitution in Indonesia is extremely difficult. We have only done it once since independence. It is difficult to garner and maintain support for a change. For example, a proposed amendment was submitted to the President, but within an hour and a half it was retracted as support behind the change collapsed in that brief window.
Question: How closely do members of the DPD work with their regional colleagues in the DPR?
Answer: Very little. For example, while I know my colleagues in the DPR from South Sulawesi – my constituency – members of the DPR mainly represent their political parties.
Question: If a province were to disagree with the allocation of natural resource benefits, given the new allocation after decentralization, how would a provincial governor go about doing so? In short, what is the role of the DPD with respect to the allocation of natural resource benefits?
Answer: Actually, the DPR is the body responsible for the budget. Ministries proposed budgets to the DPR, which has the final say. If as a Governor I am not happy with the budget, there is little I can do; I have no authority. In principle, it is possible to work with the DPR. But, the DPD has no authority over budgetary matters.
Question: Since DPD members cannot receive support from political parties, how are their campaigns financed?
Answer: I cannot speak for all DPD members, but I can use myself as an example. I was lucky not to have to spend much money in 2004 and again in 2009. In fact, I could not because I had none! My background is as an activist, NGO worker, and journalist. People actually knew me because I gave lectures and wrote articles. As a result, I only spent about Rp 50 million, which I believe is much less than the average. Others have spent upwards of Rp 1 billion for their campaigns. I was fortunate.