From Patronage Machine to Partisan Melee: Subnational Corruption and the Evolution of the Indonesian Party System

Allen, Nathan W.
June 2014
Pacific Affairs;Jun2014, Vol. 87 Issue 2, p221
Academic Journal
The party system in Indonesia has expanded in the post-Suharto era. With each successive election, voters have spread their support across a wider array of parties. This has occurred despite deliberate institutional tweaks designed to consolidate the system by privileging large parties. Why has the party system expanded despite increasing institutional incentives to consolidate? This article places party system change in a broader context of decentralization and corruption. The decentralization and deconcentration of political power has opened multiple avenues for voters and elites to access state resources. Whereas major parties were expected to dominate resources in the immediate aftermath of the transition, changes to the formal and informal institutions eroded their control over the state. This has caused previously consolidated subnational party systems to fracture. The argument is demonstrated using narrative and newly constructed cross-district datasets. The paper develops the concept of rent opportunities, defined as the ability to access and abuse state resources. Party system expansion has been greatest in areas with high rent opportunities, where both voters and elites are particularly motivated by the competition for state resources. In these areas, characterized by large state sectors, the formerly authoritarian party (Golkar) initially won large electoral victories due, in part, to its control over patronage. As Golkar lost its ability to monopolize resources, the party system fractured. Voting for small parties surged and the party machine was replaced by a partisan melee. My argument exposes the limits of institutional engineering and underlines the formative role corruption has had on the evolution of Indonesia's party system.


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