How did the Greens fare in Indonesia’s general election?


In April, Indonesia held its general election. While the incumbent Joko Widodo was returned as president, how did the country’s fledgling Green movement fare?

By Ken Davis

Elections for president, senate, national and provincial parliaments, and district councils were held in Indonesia on 17 April. The contest was between President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and Prabowo Subianto, former Commander of the Army Strategic Reserve Command, and former son-in-law of Suharto. He has a history of human rights abuses, in relation to the 1999 revolution and Timor Leste, and mobilised Muslim chauvinist forces behind him.

Indonesia is of great significance for Australia and for Greens because:

  • of the importance of the Indonesian environment in global ecology, and the sophistication of the environmental movement there;
  • it will be in top ten largest economies in world by 2030;
  • it is the largest Muslim-majority country;
  • it is a large multi-party democracy close to Australia, with major education and commercial linkages and large Indonesian-origin communities in Australia;
  • of ASEAN countries, only Indonesia and possibly Philippines and Malaysia have enough democratic opening for legal Green parties.

Twenty parties were registered for the elections, with an additional four parties registered in the the province of Aceh, which has special autonomous status.

Jokowi won 55.5 percent of the presidential vote. The ten parties that supported Jokowi won 63 percent of the national parliament vote.

Three Green political organisations have arisen, with some stimulus from the strong Indonesian environment movement – in particular, Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI). Founded in 1980, WALHI is the Indonesian Forum for Environment, which is part of the Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) network.

None of the three organisations is registered yet as a political party. The law requires a party to have a party membership of at least 30 ‘founders’ in every one of 34 provinces; three member executives in 75 percent of the 418 regencies or districts (kabupaten) and 98 cities; and three member executives in 50 percent of the 3524 sub-districts (kecematan).

For registration as a party in Aceh, PAH needs one member for every 5,000 in population, so around 11,000 members, members and executives in every one of the 23 regencies/districts, and members and executives in 2/3 of around 200 kecamatan or sub-districts.

The Sarekat[1] Hijau Indonesia (SHI), Green Union of Indonesia, was formed in 2007. It claims 30,000 members, concentrated in 10 provinces.

The Partai Hijau Indonesia (PHI), the Green Party of Indonesia, founded in 2012, now has member groups in all 34 provinces.

The Partai Atjeh[2] Hijau (PAH), Aceh Green Party, formed in 2015, has 1200 members, with branches in 7 of 23 regencies or districts, and focal points in 18 of 23 regencies.

Senators are elected as independents, and both SHI and PHI supported senate candidates in several provinces, but were unsuccessful. PAH, PHI and SHI supported their members who had been preselected by a range other parties to run for national parliament, provincial parliaments and district councils. SHI says 10 candidates they supported for provincial or district contests were successful as candidates of other parties.

The three organisations are planning around gaining registration in 2021 for the next round of elections. SHI is supporting the nomination campaigns for Green Independent candidates in some significant city mayoral elections next year.

All three organisations have benefited from Australian Greens International Development Committee project support, in projects around capacity building and education, participation in study tours to Australia, and in internships in Australia. All are associate members of the Asia Pacific Greens Federation.

Ken Davis is a member of the Illawarra Greens after being a member of the Sydney Greens in 1980s. He works at Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA on aid programs in Middle East and Southern Africa.

[1] Consciously uses old spelling

[2] Uses spelling in Acehnese language

Hero image by DFAT via Flickr.

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