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Explainer: Why Indonesia's parliamentary election matters

Explainer: Why Indonesia's parliamentary election matters
An election commission officer speaks on a phone, as he stands among ballot boxes prepared for the upcoming general election, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Feb 6, 2024.
PHOTO: Reuters file

JAKARTA — Alongside choosing a new president, Indonesians will on Feb 14 also vote for new lawmakers at the national and sub-national levels, in what will be the world's biggest single-day election.

Why do legislative elections matter?

Indonesia is sometimes called a presidential democracy with parliamentary characteristics, meaning both the executive and legislative branches play an active role in lawmaking and any legislation needs approval from both branches.

General elections in Indonesia are a battle of political parties and are followed by intense horsetrading that determines ruling and opposition alliances in the country's key lawmaking body, the lower house of parliament, and its relationship with the president.

Political alliances can shift depending on the outcome of the presidential election, which may go into a second round.

What are the parties to watch?

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle is the biggest party of nine currently in parliament. It is projected to once again dominate the polls with around a fifth of votes across the country. But its popularity has waned since the last general election in 2019 and its presidential nominee, Ganjar Pranowo, is trailing in surveys.

A close second, the Great Indonesia Movement party, Gerindra, of frontrunner Prabowo Subianto, is expected to garner around 17 per cent of votes, according to surveys.

A three-party coalition projected to get about a fifth of votes is backing a third presidential candidate, Anies Baswedan.

A total of 18 parties are contesting the elections and a new outfit, Indonesia Solidarity Party headed by outgoing President Joko Widodo's son, is expected to make it into parliament for the first time.

Parties need at least four per cent of votes across the country to qualify for representation in the national parliament.

To nominate a presidential candidate, a party or coalition of parties needs to control at least 20 per cent of seats in national parliament.

Is the president guaranteed parliamentary support?

Parliament could play a big part in determining how successful the new president might be. A sizeable opposition could make things complicated by delaying legislation and thwarting the president's initiatives, making policymaking less certain.

Incumbent Widodo succeeded in forming a coalition with the major parties, allowing him to advance his agenda. But those alliances are unstable ahead of a change in power and his successor may not get an easy ride.

ALSO READ: Indonesian students to demand president remain neutral ahead of poll

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