Indonesia Government and Politics

State and politics

According to, since the end of the 1950s and until the fall of President Suharto in May 1998, social development in Indonesia was characterized by the concentration of power and resources on the state. At the same time, the institutions and resources were conquered by leading politicians, officers and officials who collaborated with businessmen and landowners through family ties and networks. In this way, the state and its autonomous but mutually dependent powers dominated most of what in other countries are called civil society.

Indonesia Country Flag

Reference: Indonesia Flag Meaning


According to the constitution, which is partly from 1945, Indonesia is a republic that has its foundation in the belief of an almighty deity. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of IN and its meanings of Indonesia. The constitution thus has religion as part of its foundation but does not say anything about which god it is. This belief in an almighty deity also constitutes the first tenet of the state ideology, Pancasila, which the aspiring President Sukarno launched in 1945 to unite the country after Dutch colonialism and Japanese occupation during the Second World War. Government officials must swear allegiance to the nation and to the Pancasila ideology.

The president is head of state and has been elected in direct elections since 2004. Presidential elections are held every five years and the president can be re-elected once.

Since 1999, so many changes in the constitution have been made through additions or that old sections have been amended or deleted that in practice the country has a new constitution. For example, the military’s right to participate in the country’s leadership has been abolished. Parliament has been given real power, which was not the case during Suharto’s time. Also, there are no longer any restrictions on the right to form political parties and even local parties are allowed.

The legislative power lies mainly with the House of Representatives with 560 members. However, constitutional issues are decided by the People’s Advisory Assembly, which consists of the House of Representatives and the 132 directly elected members of the Representative Council of the Regions. It is the People’s Advisory Assembly who swears in the president and who also has the power to set aside the same through a judicial procedure.


The country’s president 2004-14, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, greatly strengthened his position in the general elections in 2009. He himself was re-elected with just over 60 percent of the votes already in the first round, against just under 27 percent for the closest competitor, the president Megawati Sukarnoputri. In addition, the Democratic Party (Partai Democrat, PD), formed by Yudhoyono in 2001, increased from 57 to 148 out of 560 seats and became the largest party in Parliament. In doing so, the president became much more free to pursue his own policy, since during the first term of office he was forced into broad government cooperation and many compromises. However, PD went back sharply in the 2014 elections, becoming only the fourth largest party.

After modernization, Suhartoopok’s state-carrying party Golkar managed to maintain a relatively strong position and became second largest in parliament in the 2014 elections with 91 seats. Former Democratic Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Fighting Party (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan, PDI-P), with roots in one of Suhartoopoken’s two official “opposition parties”, also attracts many voters and became the largest party in the 2014 election with 109 seats in parliament. In 2014, PDI-P supported presidential candidate Joko Widodo, who in the fight with former general Prabowo Subianto (born 1951) was elected president with 53 percent of the vote. The party founded by Subianto Gerindrabecame the third largest party with 73 seats in the 2014 parliamentary elections. Parties with clear Muslim appearance have weaker voter support.

The 2019 presidential election had the same main candidates as the 2014 election. Even then, Joko Widodo resigned with the victory, this time with a larger victory margin. Most measurements showed 56 percent support for the incumbent president. The majority in the House of Representatives also seemed to be sustained by a broad coalition led by PDI-P. The turnout was estimated at 79 percent. Official figures have not yet been released.


The people of East Timor fought for independence after the Indonesian occupation in 1975. Under the UN protection, in August 1999, a referendum was held on the future status of the area; the people defied the threats of Indonesian military and pro-Indonesian militia groups and voted for independence, which became reality in 2002.

The unwillingness, or inability, to demand responsibility for the violence in East Timor in connection with the 1999 referendum, when about 1,400 civilians are estimated to have been killed, is one of the phenomena that has most stained the governments after Suharto. Responsible military commanders or militia leaders have received liberating judgments or extremely lenient punishments. Another shortcoming was the difficulties of dealing with the deeply corrupt Suharto family, which is believed to have robbed the Treasury of many billions. In 2004, the Transparency International organization classified Suharto as the most corrupt leader of all time, but he remained inaccessible to the Indonesian judiciary until his death in 2008.


Indonesia has a heterogeneous legal system, consisting of partly unwritten domestic customary law, adat, which varies in different parts of the country, and partly legal rules of Western, first and foremost Dutch origin. The judiciary consists of local courts, appellate courts and a supreme court. The death penalty is punished for some serious crimes.

Human Rights

Increasing religious intolerance is a major challenge for the Indonesian government. Over a two-year period (2012-13), over 600 attacks on religious minorities were reported in the country. The perpetrators were, in most cases, militant Sunni Muslims, who make up the religious majority in the country, while the victims consisted of minorities such as Christians, Ahmadiya and Shia Muslims.

Despite public condemnation of the attacks, the Indonesian government is not doing enough to protect the rights of religious and social minorities or economically marginalized citizens. Instead, new treason and slander laws have been added, limiting the freedom of expression for advocates of independence and religious minority groups.

The detention and imprisonment of supporters of minority religions have occurred, as well as calls for conversion, forced displacement and the destruction of places of worship.

Non-governmental organizations’ reports show increased dissemination of local regulations that violate women’s rights. Women and girls, especially in poor and marginalized communities, are largely denied access to their sexual and reproductive rights. The government often does not do enough work to criticize discriminatory attitudes and traditional abuses such as female genital mutilation and child marriage. Muslims can choose to use Islamic law in certain disputes, and since the mid-1970s, religious law has been applied to all civil law issues that deal with marriage.

Freedom of expression and pressure is limited in Indonesia through regulation and censorship. To get to certain areas of the country, special permits are required for foreign journalists and the self-censorship of domestic reporters is extensive because of threats, violence and advocacy laws. In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015, the country is ranked 138 out of 180.

Heads of State


1945-67 Sukarno
1967-98 Suharto
1998-99 Bacharuddin Jussuf Habibie
1999-2001 Abdurrahman Wahid
2001-04 Megawati Sukarnoputri
2004-14 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
2014- Joko Widodo

Indonesia Head of Government

You may also like...