In 1999 Indonesia held its first free elections since 1955. The transition to democracy started with the Asian Crisis, which led Indonesia into a period of deep economical, social and political unrest that forced President Suharto to give up his presidency on May 21st 1998. After 32 years with a sovereing one-party rule under president Suharto, the process of making new election laws for the new democracy lasted for only eight months until the end of January 1999.
This thesis concentrates on the drafting process of the three new election laws that were adopted on January 28th 1999. These laws formed the framework for the elections that were held later on the same year. The laws regulate both the general election of the national parliament called the People’s Representative Assembly (DPR) and the elections of the two local levels which are the provincial assemblies (DPRD I) and the district assemlies (DPRD II).
My main agenda in the thesis is to make an analysis on the drafting process of the new laws and to explore the main propelling forces behind the laws. Allthough the new election laws were debated in media and among the same opposition that forced Suharto to withdraw, the final decision on the new election laws was to be taken by a parliament elected in the Suharto-era in 1997. Nevertheless, the members of parliament and the new president Habibie had to seek support outside parliament in order of getting support for the new laws.
By focusing on theories on election laws and theories on transition I have discussed the different aspects of the new laws. The new laws were formed in such a way that for instance regional based parties and small NGO’s would have no chance to form political parties and to contest the election. On the other side, the laws made it possible for large NGO’s to form parties. I have argued that the main propelling forces behind the election laws were the members of the parliament with the support of the military and the moderate middle class opposition who joined in a pact to form the new political system. The impact of the smaller NGO’s, the students and radical opposition was very little, allthough they had been among the most active forces demonstrating against Suharto the previous year.