Report on the 7 June 1999 Parliamentary General Election and Recommendations for Electoral Reform
The June 7 parliamentary election in Indonesia represented a decisive step forward in Indonesia's transition from authoritarian rule to democratic governance. It resulted, for the first time in Indonesia's history, in a peaceful transfer of power. However, the election did not represent a significant break from the past in terms of election administration. This election process was marked by administrative inefficiency, non-transparency, and a lack of accountability. While certainly a momentous step in Indonesia's transition, the credibility of the process hinged on election day itself, which was considered successful due to a lack of violence and to the enthusiasm and patience of the voters. These factors alone do not make a successful election, and serious flaws in the process should be addressed before future elections.
The process was tarnished by an overly politicized National Election Commission (KPU), excessive government control exercised through the KPU Secretariat, and failure to finance and staff the National Election Committee (PPI), which was legally mandated to implement the election. The election law lacked sufficient detail, and needed additional interpretation by an election commission that was fragmented, with no clear lines of procedure or authority'. The KPU was not independent, as asserted in the law, as it did not have its own budget and it did not appoint its own supporting staff.
While there is not compelling evidence to conclude massive fraud occurred in the 1999 elections, observers did detect significant irregularities, both intentional and unintentional. Major problem areas included the procurement of election materials that lacked adequate safety features, late distribution of materials, and a seriously delayed vote tabulation. Despite the open competition between parties, a free press, and a large deployment of domestic observers, the manner in which the election was administered severely reduced the credibility of the process. Indonesia must address electoral reform issues, both administrative and legal, if it is to restore credibility to the election process.
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