Opinion

The House of Representatives:
Part of the solution or
problem?

It’s increasingly difficult for people to appreciate to the performance of members of the House of Representatives. In addition to their poor performance, they still show dishonorable behavior, such as corrupt deeds.

If the moral integrity of the representatives is still considered low and not worth appreciating, then what about the performance of the House in performing its essential functions – legislation, supervision and budgeting? With these functions, the House is expected to push forward political reforms, boost government performance through its “oversight” function and encourage a resolution to the nation’s major problems, such as corruption, rule of law and political transparency.

To answer the above question, we should pay attention to the three main functions of parliament? The first function is legislation, which includes drafting laws.

The productivity and quality of the House in carrying out its legislative function is still fairly low. The House only managed to complete about 30 percent of the targeted 70 bills in the 2011 National Legislation Program (Prolegnas).

In addition to the quantity of laws that did not meet the targeted number of laws in Prolegnas, the quality of the laws is still problematic and not in line with the Constitution and the people’s aspirations.

This is evident and can bee seen from the so many laws that have been tested in the Constitutional Court and from the articles that have been revoked by the Constitutional Court.

Through this legislative function, the House is expected to become the epicenter of the completion of democratization and political reform. The process of legislation in the House is actually an important instrument in solving problems of confusion and irregularities in Indonesia’s political system and institutions over the years.

The problem of effectiveness of governance as a result of a combination of a presidential system and an extreme multiparty system; the political problem of high costs resulting from the liberalization of the electoral system and the issue of political corruption and the budgetary mafia due to the fragility of the party funding system are all issues that can be anticipated through the improvement of regulation legislation in the House.

For example, the bill on parliamentary elections is being discussed but is still far from the spirit to anticipate those problems.

Regulations limiting campaign expenditures or expenses (limited spending) to anticipate corrupt practices to restore the budget have not been touched at all. The ongoing debates have been focusing only on the issue of the parliamentary threshold percentage.

This is not based on the spirit to make a comprehensive simplification of political parties but is rather based on the interests of political parties in the 2014 elections.

The legislation function of the House has not been used as a momentum to complete the democratization process and political reform in the long-term context. It has only been utilized to secure the short-term interests of political parties.

If the pattern of work in the parliament and political parties shows no significant changes, it will be increasingly difficult to expect the House to push for political reform and to complete the transition to democracy in Indonesia.

The oversight function of the House has also not been performed optimally, as though it were only used as a mere means for political parties in the House to negotiate with the government. A serious oversight function can be an important instrument to encourage the improvement of government performance and the settlements of various cases that have not been resolved until today.

The ambiguity of the unresolved Bank Century case is a clear portrait of the House’s lack of seriousness in carrying out its oversight function. Even though the bells and whistles of this scandal have drained the nation’s energy and interfered with the running of the government, this political commotion had an anti-climactic ending without clarity.

The rights of inquiry and interpellation of the House have been used as instruments for political parties in the House to negotiate with the government and to strengthen the bargaining position with the
government. The public can see that right of interpellation, right of inquiry and the right to express opinions in the House usually wither before developing or end without clarity.

In carrying out its budgeting function, the House often causes the budget to leak. The corrupt practices of budgets are often the income for political parties.

This practice of budgetary mafia begins with the fragility of the political party funding system on the one hand, the magnitude of the gaps between budgeting system weaknesses and opportunities on the other.

On the financial needs of a high-cost election system, the party funding system that is problematic, as well as the magnitude of the deviation gap in this budgeting system, encourages corruption in parliament in the form of budget practices and games-brokering government projects by members of the legislature.

The low quality and productivity of the House is actually the responsibility of political parties, because all members of the DPR are selected by party mechanisms.

However, it is the political parties that actually are experiencing irregularities, even though the party’s position is the most essential institution and the core of instrument in modern democracy (Katz, 1980).

The failure of parties with strong postures of power has caused democracy in Indonesia to suffer from “failure syndrome parties”, a condition in which the posture of power and authority of the parties is very strong but has a lot of “diseases” and deviations (deviation of democracy). That is because the stronger parties rule, but this does not offset the “immune system” of the strengthening and institutionalization of the system internally.

In this situation, the impact on the image and performance of the DPR also continues to decline, as the failures of House are also the failures of political parties.

How far the prospect of the House will stretch to encourage political reform and promote the government’s performance in the completion of major cases, such as corruption and the rule of law, depends on the commitment of political parties.

Therefore, to settle this issue in House — in addition to revamping the system and the internal mechanisms in the House — we should start by reforming the system of internal institutions and party
behavior.

Without the awareness and commitment from political parties, it will be difficult to expect the House to be part of the solution, as it will be part of the problem instead.

The writer is a political analyst with The Indonesian Institute.

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