Judicial Power in Indonesia

Judicial Power in Indonesia

Judicial power in Indonesia is the power of an independent state to administer the judiciary to enforce law and justice based on Pancasila (foundational philosophical theory of Indonesia), for the sake of the implementation of the State of Law of the Republic of Indonesia.

Indonesia is a republic with a presidential system. As a unitary state, power is concentrated at the national government level. Following the fall of Soeharto in 1998, Indonesian political and governmental structures were largely reformed. Four amendments to the 1945 constitution redefined the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch.

Distribution of powers

Executive power

The President of Indonesia is the head of state, commander-in-chief of the Indonesian military, head of government, decision-making, and foreign affairs. The president appoints the council of ministers, ministers who are not necessarily elected members of the legislature. The 2004 presidential election was the first time the people elected the president and vice president by direct universal suffrage. The president can chain a maximum of two consecutive terms of five years.

The provincial governors, elected until 2005 by the provincial parliaments, are now progressively elected by direct suffrage.

The prefects (bupati) are elected by the departmental assemblies and the mayors (walikota) by the municipal assemblies.

Legislative power

The highest representative structure at the national level is the Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat (People’s Deliberative Assembly or MPR). Its main role is to support and amend the constitution, to enthrone the president and to formalize the main lines of national policy. The MPR has two chambers:

the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (People’s Representative Council or DPR), which is the lower house and whose 550 members are elected by direct suffrage for five years in a globally proportional system;
the Dewan Perwakilan Daerah (Representative Council of the Regions or DPD), a sort of upper house whose members are elected by direct suffrage for five years at the rate of four per province or special territory. The total number of members of the DPD (currently 128) cannot exceed one third of that of the DPR.
Reforms since 1998 have increased the national role of the DPR at the government level. The DPD deals with regional issues.

At the level of provinces, kabupaten (departments) and kota (municipalities), there are also regional assemblies (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah) whose members are also elected by direct suffrage for five years under a proportional system.

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Legal authority

Most civil disputes are resolved in the State Court and appeals are heard in the High Court. The highest judicial authority is the Supreme Court (Mahkamah Agung). She deals with cassations and case reviews. Other courts include the Commercial Court, which deals with bankruptcy and insolvency issues; the Administrative Court, which deals with legal cases involving the government; the Constitutional Court which debates the legality of the law, elections, dissolutions of political parties and the scope of the authority of state institutions; and the Religious Court which deals with specific religious cases.

Foreign politic

In contrast to Soekarno’s anti-imperialism and the Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation (Konfrontasi), Indonesia’s foreign policy has focused, since the Soeharto era, on economic and political cooperation with Western nations. Indonesia maintains close relations with its Asian neighbors and is a founding member of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the East Asia Summit. Indonesia renewed ties with China in 1990, relations that had been frozen until then following the anti-communist purges at the start of the Soeharto era.

It has been a member of the United Nations since 1950 and founded the Non-Aligned Movement (supported at the Bandung conference in 1955) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. It is part of the Cairns Group of the World Trade Organization but withdrew in 2008 from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Indonesia has been receiving humanitarian aid and development aid since 1966, particularly from the United States, Western Europe, Australia and Japan. Indonesia is the only Southeast Asian country to be a member of the G20.

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Defense and security

The Indonesian Armed Forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia or TNI) has a total strength of just over 432,000. They include the army (TNI Angkatan Darat), the navy (TNI Angkatan Laut) and the air force (TNI Angkatan Udara).

Global Fire Power ranks the Indonesian armed forces 13th in the world in terms of power and 5th in Asia behind China, India, Japan and South Korea. Women can join the army in a special corps separate from men. The military’s budget in 2008 was US$4.74 billion or about 0.8% of gross domestic product. The army has had and still has a very important role in the country’s internal politics.

The Indonesian police (Kepolisian Republik Indonesia) reports directly to the President of the Republic. Until 1999, she was part of the armed forces. Its strength is 150,000 men including a body of 12,000 men, the Brigade Mobil (or Brimob), organized as a military unit.

Petty crime is quite widespread in Indonesia despite a law that allows the death penalty for acts such as drug trafficking. The penitentiary administration has 527 prisons with a theoretical maximum capacity of around 90,000 detainees, but at the beginning of 2010 there were 132,000. The specter of terrorism has been hovering over the country since the highly publicized Bali bombing of 2002.

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Sources: PinterPandai, Oxford University PressLegal and Judicial Research and Training of the Supreme Court (Badan Litbang Diklat Hukum dan Peradilan, Mahkamah Agung RI), Thomson Reuters, Faculty of Law, University of Indonesia (Fakultas Hukum FH – UI)


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