Half-Hearted Multiparty System Simplification

Simplifying the party system is not merely about reducing the number of political party involved

The discussion over which election system should be implemented in the upcoming concurrent election is getting intense. Other than discussing the method of candidacy and voting (the closed-list proportional representation system and open-list proportionial representation system), many political parties also propose the idea to increase the parliamentary threshold to the government.

The initial idea was proposed by National Democrat Party (Nasdem), who want to increase the parliamentary threshold to 7 percent from previously 3.5 percent. This means, only political party that acquired 7 percent of votes in the previous election is allowed to participate in the upcoming election. The other parties soon follow Nasdem. Golkar Party and Unity and Development Party (PPP), for example, propose to increase the parliamentary threshold to 10 percent.

Those parties have similar reason: to simplify the party system.

“We should not be having too much political parties in election. We need to reduce the number of political party from ten parties to five parties. That is what we are striving for,” says the Chairman of Nasdem, Surya Paloh (07/20).

Golkar agrees. Golkar believes it is important to have a simple party system in order to establish an effective government. Too many political parties in the parliament will hamper the decision making process by the government. Increasing parliamentary threshold is one of many ways to simplify the party system.

“The higher the parliamentary threshold, the less political parties will win seats in parliament,” says Setya Novanto, the Chairman of Golkar, during a public seminar titled “Re-arranging Political Funding in Indonesia: The Opportunity for Political Funds from State Budget” held by the Financial Monitoring Body (BPK) in Jakarta (07/25).

However, do those politicians really have such noble intention with their proposal?

To Simplify the Party System or Simply Being Pragmatic?

Masykurudin Hafidz, the National Coordinator of the Network of Voters Education for the People (JPPR), argues that the idea to increase the parliamentary threshold as proposed by political parties are nothing but a political pragmatism. Potentially, there will be many wasted votes and disproportionate votes if the proposal is implemented. “Many votes from the voters will become wasted,” said Masykurudin (07/24).

The mechanism of parliamentary threshold is to directly exclude any political party that was not able to achieve the minimum votes from the election competition. Such mechanism will waste many votes given to the excluded party.

The implementation of parliamentary threshold has also been proven as fail in creating a simpler multiparty-based election system, especially if the simplification is only seen as a process of reducing the number of political party in parliament.

The 2009 election—with parliamentary threshold at 2.5 percent—resulted in nine political parties eligible to have seats in parliament. When the parliamentary threshold was increase to 3.5 percent in the 2014 election, the number of eligible political parties increases to 10 parties instead.

“Based on past experience, the increase of parliamentary threshold has no effect whatsoever to simplify the multiparty system. The increase also renders many votes being wasted. The idea to increase the parliamentary threshold is a trick from big political parties to maintain their position by eliminating competition from small and new political parties,” said Khoirunnisa Agustyati, the Deputy of the Association for Election and Democracy (Perludem), in Jakarta (07/24).

Which Simplification?

It is actually incorrect to agree to the idea that simplifying the multiparty system is equal to reducing the number of political party in parliament. It is not about the number, but more about the concentration of power among the political parties during decision-making process.

Political scientists Marku Laakso and Rein Tagaapera propose an index to determine such concentrationof power, it is called effective number of parliamentary parties (ENPP). Giovanni Sartori, another political scientist, then classifies multiparty system based on that index.

Multiparty system with ENPP index of 1 means the system has only one dominant political party in the parliament. ENPP index of 2 means there are two dominant political parties in the parliament. ENPP index of 3 to 5 shows a simple multiparty system, where there are three to five dominant political parties. ENPP index of more than 5 shows an extreme multiparty system, where there are more than six dominant political parties in parliament.

Perludem has calculated and compare the ENPP index of Indonesian parliament after the 2009 election and 2014 election. For the 2009 election, the ENPP index is 6.2. At that time, there are nine eligible political parties in parliament, but the index shows there are only six dominant parties in decision-making process. Meanwhile, for the 2014 election, the ENPP index is 8.2. There are 10 eligible political parties, but only eight dominant parties in the decision-making process.

Penyederhanaan Sistem Kepartaian dari Masa ke Masa

Penyederhanaan Sistem Kepartaian dari Pemilu ke Pemilu

“Political parties misunderstand the idea of multiparty simplification. The ENPP index has shown that increasing parliamentary threshold has instead intensified parties fragmentation from 6 to 8,” said Heroik Pratama, a researcher from Perludem, who conducted the simulation of the ENPP calculation.

An Alternative to Simplify the Multiparty System

If the government really want to simplify the multiparty system, to simplify it without neglecting the votes and equality of the voters, then they will have to tinker with two other variables (other than the parliamentary threshold) of the election system. “The two variables are: (1) district magnitude and (2) the formula to convert the votes into seats,” said Heroik.

Perludem recommends to reduce the district magnitude in Indonesia from 3-10 available seats per district to only 3-6 available seats per district. With such reduction, political parties will have to put an extra effort to win seats in an area with smaller district magnitude. Logically speaking, the bigger the district magnitude in an electoral area, the bigger ENPP index will be in that area (hence the disproportionate power concentration among political parties). Vice versa, the smaller the district magnitude, the ENPP index will also become smaller.

“So that the government does not have to change the total seats eventhough the district magnitude is reduced, they will have to add the number of electoral district. There are 560 seats to be competed in election, and there are 77 electoral districts. With only 3-6 seats per district, there have to be around 121 electoral districts,” said Heroik.

Perludem also recommends to alter the formula to convert seats into votes. The previous formula that uses voters divisor index or seats price should be changed into using the saint lague divisor.

“Using the saint lague, we will have to divide the votes acquired by political party with divisor index of 1, 2, 3, and so on until all votes are evenly divided. Then, the result of the division is ranked. Candidate with the highest rank shall get the first seat, the candidate with second highest rank will get the second seat, and so on,” Heroik explains.

This formula would result in a seats to votes conversion that is able to simplify the multipartysystem without having to reduce the number of the party.

By tempering with those two variables, the government will be able to reduce the ENPP index in our election from 8.2 to 6.6. The saint lague divisor formula is rather inclusive to small and new political parties. The number of wasted votes also will not as big as if the government simply increase the parliamentary threshold.