Jurnal Ekonomi, Vol 15, No 2 (2010)

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Syarif Hidayat


This paper attempts to advocate an alternative perspective—namely Political Economic Perspective—in understanding the practice of the so called Indonesian Pemilihan Kepala Daerah Langsung/PILKADA (direct election for local government heads). Decentralization policy, it is believed, pushes the central government to disperse its power and authority to local governments. Meanwhile, directly electing local government heads, allows the attainment of an accountable local government, as a corollary, thus leading local governments to be more responsive to the demands of their communities. Thus, together decentralization  and a direct election system have been seen as a way of reducing the power and size of swollen central state bureaucracies, and of improving accountability for development planning and spending at a more local level. However I would argue that theoretical arguments regarding the value of a direct election system above (including the Pilkada), become meaningful only when the direct election system is analyzed from a “substantive democracy” perspective, that is when so called “democratic behaviour” exists both within the realm of local state actors and within society at the regional level (Ostrom, 1991; Oyugi, 2000). I suggest that this “substantive democracy assumption” is less relevant as a conceptual framework for understanding Indonesia’s Pilkada, since there is a relatively low standard, or even the absence of, democratic behaviour both in the realm of state actors and within society in general. As a result, the political process is still strongly dominated by interaction, competition, and compromise of interests among state actors, on the one side, and societal actors, on the other. Within this circumstance, even though the direct Pilkada is carried out, it would be difficult to deny afterwards that the election process in itself, as well as the performance of local governance after the election (post-Pilkada) will be heavily coloured by competition and compromise of interests among the elites.

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