The stages of the legislative elections in the 2019 Concurrent Elections in Indonesia was completed this October. Although various disputes over the results of general elections and massive demonstrations occurred, all of the stages completed by October 1st, 2019 with the inauguration day of legislators for 2019-2024. By the completion of the 2019 legislative election stage, our duty as citizens is no longer to oversee the elections but to give control to the elected councillors.
While Indonesia is preparing for the new political circumstance and constellation, one of new democratic countries in South Asia, Uzbekistan, is making its parliamentary election. The Central Election Commission (CEC) has designated December 22nd, 2019 as the election day for deputies of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis (parliament) of the Republic of Uzbekistan and deputies of local “Kengashes” (branches). This election will be a prominent moment for Uzbekistan because since Shavkat M. Mirziyoyev was elected as the President, significant political, legal and economic reforms have been initiated. Therefore, high priority is given to the rule of law and the principles of democracy, included in the election process.
In doing so, cited from the official website of CEC of the Republic of Uzbekistan, it can be known that on September 20th, 2019, the CEC of the Republic of Uzbekistan launched an election campaign for the parliament. This campaign is an open campaign which can be interpreted as one of the government's effort to involve all of the people in the democratic process — besides, the new electoral code which is claimed to be more democratic also implemented in this election.
Based on the latest systems, for the first time, five political parties will nominate their candidates – Milliy Tiklanish Democratic Party, People’s Democratic Party, Movement of Entrepreneurs and Businesspeople – the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, Social Democratic Party Adolat and the Ecological Party of Uzbekistan. Political parties have the right to nominate 150 candidates from all constituencies in the upcoming elections to the Legislative Chamber. In the past, they only can nominate 135 candidates from all constituencies (CEC of Uzbekistan, 2019).
News about the election in South Asian, especially in the ex-Uni Soviet countries seems to be a bit strange for Indonesian. Therefore, this article aims to explain more about the comparison of the electoral system between Indonesia and Uzbekistan. Some aspects should be considered in designing an electoral system. Partnership (2011) has formulated six elements that will give impact to the implementation of an electoral system in a country. Those aspects are divided into two categories. The first one is the main elements which consisted of 4 items: district magnitude, candidacy, balloting, and electoral formula. The rest is the supportive elements which included electoral threshold and the electoral time.
The Differences of Electoral System
Related to the differences of the electoral system in Indonesia and Uzbekistan, of the six elements of the electoral system mentioned before, the significant difference between them is the electoral system choice/electoral formula. Indonesia uses Proportional (PR) List electoral system which nowadays has shifted from the closed-PR List to the opened PR List in the concurrent election context. In contrast, Uzbekistan uses the two-round system, which is included in the majoritarian/plural system. That deference in electoral choice obviously will give a different impact as well. In the proportional system, the seat share will be distributed proportionally to the vote share of each party. This system usually less favouring the large party. On the other hand, the majoritarian system will only distribute the seat to a party that achieve a vast number of votes. In other words, this system practically favours large parties and give opportunities to them to win the election easily.
In Uzbekistan’s system, that majority system does not mean that when a party achieve a large number of votes, it will automatically get a seat and win the election (a majority-plurality form). Conceptually, in the two-round system, there is a condition in which a second election is held if no candidate or party achieves a given level of votes, most commonly an absolute majority (50 per cent plus one) in the first round (Reynolds & IDEA, 2015). That condition also implemented in Uzbekistan (Abduazimov, 2019). In the second round, the majority procedure is no longer an absolute majority. The one who wins the highest number of votes (a majority-plurality form), regardless of whether they have an absolute majority, is elected (Reynolds, Reilly, Ellis, & International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance., 2005). This kind of system seems familiar in Indonesia as we also use this system yet in the Presidential Election and the Jakarta Gubernatorial Election, the frequent use of this system worldwide.
Regarding the different system used both countries, it will be interesting to define each positive and negative impact of each system in general. Cited from International IDEA Handbook, it is known that besides giving a proportional seat to the party based on their vote share, PR list also will potentially accommodate the presence of the minor group, such as ethnic, race, and gender. It is because parties are forced to craft balanced candidate lists which will reflect the whole spectrum of voters’ interest.
Apart from accommodating the minority group, PR List system also believed to be the friendliest electoral system to gain women representation. A series of studies began in the 1980s concluded that women, not only in developing democracies but also in established democratic countries, tend to be more elected in this system compared to the plurality/majority system (Matland, 2005; Moser, 2001; Norris, 2006; Reynolds et al., 2005; Siaroff, 2000). The logic is simple. By implementing a proportional system, it means that in a district, there will be some parties that will seat as a legislator because the proportional system is a kind of multi-member district (MMD) electoral system. Meanwhile, in a system with a single-member district (SMD), there will be only one candidate or political party who will be elected in a district. The last mechanism, of course, will narrow women's chances of being elected.
Even though PR List system can accommodate almost all parties’ interests in a country, it also has its negative impact. Especially in the Opened-PR List, money politics can potentially emerge. Especially by the concurrent election mechanism in 2019, the combination of opened-PR List and the concurrent election of legislative and presidential elections, made voters have a lot of choices. This mechanism then made the presidential election as the central attention. Therefore, with more than 160 candidates for the House of Representative (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat/DPR)Election, hundreds more for the Regional House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah/DPRD) and Regional Representative Board (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah/DPD) elections, it is difficult for voters to be able to do observations and recognise sincerely about the profiles and issues carried by the candidates. With such conditions, to get votes, money politics can be a useful shortcut to gain votes of candidates/political parties.
Apart from the potential drawback related to money politics, the proportional system in general also has its complexity in converting vote to be seat. There are a lot of formulas to define it. Each formula has its consequences to the political circumstance. However, to determine the most suitable one, it also takes a tremendous political effort to create an ideal electoral formula that will support the country's goal. The goal mentioned can be the proportional allocation of power or the spirit of party simplification to support the presidentialism, a system that also implements in Indonesia.
On the other hand, in the two-round system, this system allows voters to have their second chance to choose their “best” candidate. Voters may change their vote in the second run. Yet, they also can do the same thing as in the first round. Besides, in elites' point of view, they will also have time to react to the change of the political circumstance after the first run. Usually, when the first run leaves political changing, candidates and parties will seek the most suitable coalescence to support their bargaining position in the political landscape in a country. It is similar to the political situation in Indonesia, primarily when the second run of election occurred, for instance, in the presidential election in 2004 and Jakarta Gubernatorial election in 2017.
In spite of its advantages, Two Round System is a system that will take more time and spending. TRS places a strong emphasis on electoral administration which requires that the second round of elections must be held soon after the first round of elections (Reynolds & IDEA, 2015). It certainly makes the workload of electoral management bodies and budgets increase. The further implication is that, instead of giving voters a second chance to strengthen their choices or change their preferences, this system often results in decreased voter participation because the euphoria of the election has been poured out in the first round of elections. Therefore, usually in countries with this system, each candidate or political party competes with each other and does everything possible to win the election in the first round to avoid losing votes in the second round.
In addition to the two shortcomings above, this two-round system can also create divided voters. Especially when in the second round, the election participants are the two candidates/parties with the second-largest vote. When that happens, there are two strong possibilities. The first possibility is the migration of votes from supporters of the losing candidate/party to the candidate/party in the second round. While the second possibility is that political escalation between supporters in the second round can be sharper because there are no other competitors in the election. Of course, these things need to be a note that needs to be anticipated immediately, including by Uzbekistan who will soon hold elections.
Finally, the two-round system also has shortcomings like other types of majority/plurality systems, the First Past the Post system. Because the spirit that was carried was the spirit of SMD constituency, the disproportionality of the election results from this system was quite significant. Further implications, this system can divide the party system in a country.
There is an essential lesson for both countries that can be learned from each electoral system. For Indonesia, which is currently looking for an ideal form of holding elections, compared to the two rounds of the electoral system as implemented in Uzbekistan, the Opened-PR List system that has been achieved is more suitable. Just imagine if Indonesia uses a variant of the plurality system in its legislative election system. Some shortcomings, such as the polarisation of society and the division of political parties can be increasingly apparent in Indonesia. Besides, another reason why this system should not be considered for future electoral system engineering is the disproportionate election results generated by this system. Such disproportionality is certainly not in line with pluralism in Indonesia. Another reason for not recommending this system for Indonesia is the vote acquisition of political parties which are now getting closer to the middle spectrum. With the principle of majority vote, there may be no significant difference in votes between parties with the most votes who then advance to the second round or between the losing and winning parties. Therefore, instead of changing the electoral system to a majority/plurality system, maintaining the proportional system by refining it more or trying to assess a mixed system may be the right way of choices for Indonesia.
Meanwhile, for Uzbekistan, as a relatively new democracy, carefulness in holding elections with this system requires special attention. When the government, CEC, and all parties related cannot handle the negative impacts of this system, such as the voter polarisation and the party system fragmentation properly, the electoral mechanism itself can potentially damage the political development in Uzbekistan. Therefore, political education for voters should be carried out by local authorities so that the community does not fall prey to social polarisation and fragmentation due to elite interests. (Mouliza K.D Sweinstani - The Center for Political Studies, Indonesian Institute of Sciences)
Abduazimov, M. S. The Second Secretary of The Embassy of Republic of Uzbekistan (2019), interview through online chatting on 9th October 2019